The Digital Panopticon for Schools

E.Le Bihan, 'The First Fleet Entering Port Jackson on 26 January 1788' (Colour Lithograph, 1888). State Library of New South Wales via Wikimedia Commons.

The primary source material available on the Digital Panopticon forms a uniquely broad, detailed and rich platform that can enrich GCSE and A-Level study of the history of crime and punishment as well as individual research projects. The Digital Panopticon can also illuminate historiographical perspectives on the history of British imperialism. These education pages have been specifically designed to meet the needs of EdExcel/Pearson, OCR, and WJEC Eduqas GCSE syllabuses and EdExcel A-Level History curricula. These courses all address the eighteenth and nineteenth-century development of crime and punishment in the UK and transportation to Australia.

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.

We welcome any feedback on these pages or queries in relation to our exhibitions or workshops: email us at

Author Credits

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