The London Lives Petitions Project

Data and visualisations for approximately 10,000 petitions (and letters of a petitionary nature) contained in the records of eighteenth-century London and Middlesex Sessions of the Peace which were digitised for London Lives, 1690-1800.

This project began as an experiment to make particular types of material within the London Lives Sessions Papers more accessible and usable. The Sessions Papers are, overall, one of the largest single record collections in London Lives (about 90,000 pages in the Sessions of the Peace series and a further 10,000 pages of Old Bailey Sessions papers), but they’re also the most diverse and  piecemeal.

Petitions represent a particularly significant group of documents within that series, both as a distinctive object of study in their own right and for the light they can shed on individual lives and experiences, but they were hard to find or to place in context (we had no idea even of how many there were). The main project objectives were:

  • firstly, to find effective methods for identifying petitions (to work out whether this was actually a feasible goal!);
  • to create an open dataset containing full documentation, structured metadata and a text corpus;
  • to use the data for quantitative and qualitative analysis and experiment with data visualisation techniques

The project started in 2015.

The project website is mainly static HTML with some PHP. Data documentation was written in Markdown and converted to HTML using pandoc. Data visualisations have been created using d3.js, d3plus and dimple.js; further dataviz may also experiment with R and packages such as ggplot.