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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Historians, rejoice.  Forty million words of petition, accusation, and complaint - have been posted online, giving unrivaled access to the underground lives of eighteenth century Londoners.

Hogarth visited Sarah Malcolm just two or three days before her execution in 1733, and made a sketch that resulted in this evocative painting.
(T.C. & E.C. Jack, Masterpieces in Colour: Hogarth)

The London Lives website is a fully searchable collection of 240,000 pages of handwritten documents from criminal justice and town government.  Research that has been focused on the notorious and the royal can now be extended to the lives of ordinary working men and women.

It includes evidence from trials at the Old Bailey that range from murder to petty theft, petitions to relieve distress, accounts of money distributed to the poor, hospital and parish records, and the minutes kept at meetings of guilds.

Co-director Tim Hitchcock, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire, says that the aim was to make the site different -- "to make it available to everyone in a new way, and to allow everyone to chart their own narratives through past lives."

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