Legal History

New Website Debuts Featuring Searchable Records of 240 Years of Trials at the Old Bailey

Thanks to powerful digital tools and an international team of researchers, a detailed history of hundreds of years of British criminal trials can be quickly scanned and categorized as never before.

A new searchable website contains records of nearly 200,000 trials at the Old Bailey, the principal criminal court in London, between 1674 and 1913, reports the New York Times (reg. req.).

“It’s the largest body of accurately transcribed historical texts online. All of human life is here,” said historian Tim Hitchcock of the University of Hertfordshire. He is a member of the research team that created the website.

Want to know when the tide began to turn toward plea bargains? The trend started in the early 1800s, after prison sentences began to be a viable alternative to the death penalty and exile, the newspaper recounts. By the mid-1800s, trial records show, a third of the cases at the Old Bailey involved guilty pleas.

For more trial trends revealed by the new research, read the full New York Times article.

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