London Lives 1690-1800 is a major digital edition of primary sources about eighteenth-century London, with a particular focus on the poor and crime. This project focuses on two groups of people - paupers and petitioners - who gave accounts of themselves to authorities in London Lives' petitions, letters and examinations.
The first task has been to locate and reshape the relevant source material in London Lives into new datasets that will enable focused exploration and analysis. Versions of the data are shared under Creative Commons licences for re-use by other researchers.
- Identification of c. 10,000 petitions within almost 100,000 pages of assorted Stuff in Sessions Papers
- Creation of a text corpus and metadata
- Identification of petitioners and other subjects of petitions
- Creation of names data (c. 28,000 names) from the Settlement, bastardy and vagrancy examinations of two London parishes (the term "pauper examinations" will be used for general reference)
- Creation of a text corpus of the examinations (c.11,000)
- Enhancement of the basic names data with information about settlements and marriages/cohabitations.
- London Lives contains a small but rich collection of Pauper Letters
- There are further pauper examinations in Sessions Papers and in an early 18th-century "register" of examinations
- Documents associated with petitions in the Sessions Papers, especially information on outcomes
- Documents particularly related to bastardy examinations
In the longer term, I hope that some of this data will find its way back into London Lives.
This work began as two separate projects primarily focused on data collection and remixing, which have gradually converged and begun to develop more focused research ideas, influenced by my interests in digital tools and methods, early modern crime and women's history.
Often discussion of early modern petitions focuses on pauper petitions and letters (notwithstanding debate about how far they represent authentic "voices" of the poor) as sources for plebeian agency. But petitions could equally be used against the interests of the very poor. The largest single group of petitions is from parishes appealing against pauper removals under the settlement laws - and usually those petitions will be accompanied by copies of pauper examinations. And so I'm interested in exploring those connections and the many uses of petitions.
Settlement, bastardy and vagrancy examinations contain biographical fragments of the lives of the 18th-century poor. They are fragments because the magistrates who conducted them were interested only in specific pieces of information that were legally relevant. But they are nonetheless often richly detailed fragments documenting important aspects of people's lives and experiences: where they were born, work, marriage, family formation, deaths and desertions.
- Research Themes (very early stages of development)
Alongside the release of open data, my aim is for all the outputs of the project to be as openly accessible as possible. This includes blogging, data visualisations, presentations and, eventually, more formal publications.
Visualisations and other experiments
- Addressing Authority: What can you do with 10000 petitions?, London, March 2016 (slides)
- Remixing and Remaking Digital Histories, Sheffield, September 2016 (abstract)
The datasets have been created using the XML transcriptions published at the London Lives website. I am deeply grateful to Tim Hitchcock and Bob Shoemaker, the London Lives project directors, for agreeing to share this data. The London Lives project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
All paupers and petitions data derived from, and with many thanks to, London Lives 1690-1800.
All site content and data is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.