The Digital Panopticon

The Digital Panopticon: The Global Impact of London Punishments, 1780-1925

This ambitious large-scale project is developing new and transferable methodologies for understanding and exploiting complex bodies of genealogical, biometric, and criminal justice data, thereby demonstrating the benefits of digital innovation to sometimes sceptical scholars and public audiences. 


The Digital Panopticon
Research Aims

Through data mapping and life-course analysis this project is investigating a central issue of penology and social policy: the relative impacts of different types of punishment on criminal desistance, health outcomes, employment opportunities, and family life over the long term. Using sophisticated data-linking methodologies it joins together existing and widely used large data-sets (Old Bailey Online [containing accounts of all trials held at London's Central Criminal Court]; London Lives [a searchable archive of crime, poverty and social policy]; and Founders and Survivors [records of the 73,000 men women and children who were transported to Tasmania]) with newly digitised data to make it possible to chart the fortunes of all Londoners convicted at the Old Bailey between the departure of the First Fleet to Australia (1787) through to the death of the last transported Londoner in Australia in the early 1920s. Prisoners kept in London's burgeoning prison estate are being identified and followed in newly available digitized prison records, as well as civil datasets (such as the censuses carried out between 1841 and 1911). Convicts sentenced to transportation are being traced through the richly detailed convict records in Australia, as well as in London prison registers and birth, marriage and death records.

We are tracing the criminal London poor through a plethora of digital records, recreating a pan-global prism capable of mapping and analyzing their lives at both the collective and individual level.

This Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project is led by Professor Barry Godfrey (University of Liverpool) with Dr Deb Oxley (University of Oxford), Professor Robert Shoemaker (University of Sheffield), Professor Tim Hitchcock (University of Hertfordshire), and Associate Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (University of Tasmania) as co-investigators.

For further information, check the website Old Bailey Online