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Research Themes

Our seven research themes each have a different focus, but are integrated through mixed-membership research teams and the identification of three theoretical and methodological sets of questions that run through all of the projects.

How can new digital methodologies enhance understandings of existing electronic datasets and the construction of knowledge?

  • What can visualisation techniques tell us about the overall shape/distinctive patterns in the data, and what does this reveal about the various processes by which the data were created, and their constraints/limitations?
  • What were the epistemological and ontological constructions which directed the format and formed the limits of information formation in the London and colonial criminal justice systems?
  • How can we improve current record-linkage processes to maximise both the number of individuals linked across different datasets and the amount of information obtained about each individual? What is the minimum amount of contextual information needed in order to conduct successful large-scale record linkage of data pertaining to specific individuals?

What were the long and short term impacts of incarceration or convict transportation on the lives of offenders, and their families, and offspring?

  • Which forms of punishment/penal regimes were most effective at achieving deterrence and/or reform; and which appeared to extend criminal careers?
  • How important were factors experienced beyond the prison gates at supporting reform? Who fared best in making a new life for themselves, and why? What are the social and spatial geographies of offending and resettlement in London and the colonies?
  • How long did the impact of convict transportation on health, employment, and relationship-formation last; did it have an intergenerational legacy?

What are the implications of online digital research on ethics, public history, and ‘impact’?

  • How can researchers ethically process such vast amounts of extremely detailed personal data that is so easily and immediately available?
  • What are the implications for public ownership of archives in the digital age; and how can the public and private sector work to ensure that knowledge is democratised through digital delivery?
  • What is the role of digital resources in constructing public histories of crime?

Theme 1: Epistemologies

Examines the overall distribution of the data, adopting a ‘big data’ approach to identify hitherto unrecognised patterns and correlations.

Theme 2: Voices of Authority

Explores the testimonies of the men and women and children caught up in the criminal justice system of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, using techniques and tools from corpus linguistics.

Theme 3: Penal Outcomes

Investigates the long-term impact of life course events such as migration, employment, marriage and parenthood on offending patterns and compares the efficacy of different penal regimes.

Theme 4: Intergenerational Inequalities

Maps the frequency of colonial offending and reoffending across the population as a whole and measures intergenerational social mobility charting contrasting outcomes for the descendants of convict and free migrants.

Theme 5: Biometrics

Tracks nutritional change in London over the course of the late 18th and 19th centuries and relate this to prosecution rates, urban density and the spread of sanitation measures, and explore changes in height and body mass index over time for individuals.

Theme 6: Digital Dark Tourism

Investigates issues relating to digital dark tourism around sites of pain and punishment, in conjunction with our selected industry partners, with an aim of developing best practice within a rapidly-expanding sector of the British and Australian heritage industry.

Theme 7: Ethics and Digital History

Considers the ethical implications of digital sources that bring together massive amounts of personal information about so many individuals.