The Digital Panopticon for Schools

Detail of Rebecca Solomon 'The Governess' (1851). Wikimedia Commons.

The primary source material available on the Digital Panopticon forms a uniquely broad, detailed and rich platform that can enrich individual research projects. The Digital Panopticon can also illuminate historiographical perspectives on UK crime and the history of British imperialism.

Student Engagement

Given the broad canvas, described above, the Digital Panopticon website can be used to support teaching in a range of current GCSE and AS/A-Level History modules. Working with the website can provide students with a valuable opportunity to:

Background information

As a first port of call, teachers and students are encouraged to access the historical background and convict lives pages of the Digital Panopticon website. These provide historical context for the data contained in the website, as well as summarising key themes in the history of crime and punishment in the UK and Australia between 1780 and 1925. They also provide a range of images and wider reading options, which can be particularly useful for the historiographical requirements of AS/A-Level students.

The records pages for the website also give a detailed breakdown of the information contained in the datasets that comprise the Digital Panopticon web resource. This can be a useful starting point for a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of online historical sources.

A note of caution: The Digital Panopticon is a website which deals with the history of crime, criminality and punishment. It therefore contains details of violent offences and sexual offences. Teachers should be aware of this and exercise appropriate caution when using the website with students in the classroom.


In these education pages, the Digital Panopticon team suggest a number of website based activities and offer two new, free resources. First, The Digital Panopticon and GCSE History introduces a schools pop-up exhibition called, "Criminal Lives, 1780-1925". Second, The Digital Panopticon and AS-Level and A-Level History offers teachers access to two introductory films on Transportation and Convict Lives.

'Criminal Lives' Exhibition

Teachers and students are also encouraged to attend a free exhibition, Criminal Lives, 1780-1925: Punishing Old Bailey Convicts at the London Metropolitan Archives (11 December 2017 – 16 May 2018). Curated by Professors Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker, this exhibition explores the historical changes that occurred between 1700 and 1900, when Britain stopped punishing the bodies of convicts and increasingly sought to reform their minds. Exile and forced labour in Australia and incarceration in penitentiaries became the dominant modes of punishment. This exhibition uses the collections of the London Metropolitan Archives to trace the impact of these punishments on convict lives.

For more information about the exhibition, including how to book a school visit, please contact:

Please bear in mind that the education pages for the Digital Panopticon website are a work in progress. We welcome any feedback on these pages or queries in relation to our exhibitions or workshops: email us at

We look forward to bringing you more resources as the project develops.

Author Credits

This page was written by Larissa Allwork, with additional contributions by other members of the Digital Panopticon project team.