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

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Sch of Law and Social Justice

Abstract

Led by an international team of established researchers, this ambitious large-scale project develops 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 skeptical scholars and public audiences. Through data mapping and life-course analysis this project will investigate 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 will be 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 will be traced through the richly detailed convict records in Australia, as well as in London prison registers and birth, marriage and death records. We will trace 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.

The main output will be a database and curated-website, in addition to publications in leading journals. At the outset we will publish a blog, and a project website (which will explain our methodology and progress, introduce debates on ethics, methodology, and epistemology, and provide preliminary findings, so that we can engage with the widest possible audience). The 'London Eye' website will also provide an integrated search engine for searching the conjoined datasets containing life course data for 66,000 Londoners who experienced differing penal regimes, which we expect to be regularly consulted by many of the 12 million family historians in the UK and Australia. In addition, in partnership with media and industry partners, we will create online digital learning resources that will disseminate project findings to family historians, schools, and the creative industries.

This project reconstructs the story of family formation, desistence and reoffending on a vast and unprecedented scale. In constructing this digital Panopticon of London criminal justice, this interdisciplinary trans-national project will resolve a number of important questions which have long intrigued historians, sociologists, social geographers, linguistic researchers, economists and criminologists, who have hitherto lacked the tools to carry out this research.

Planned Impact

An integral part of the project involves engaging non-academic beneficiaries in the use of our data and research findings. The research will contribute to public and policy debates on desistance, penal regimes, and sentencing policy/practice. Our long term aspiration is to bring to a wider audience research on the impact of imprisonment and transportation on the offenders (across the whole of their lives) and their families and communities. The main non-academic beneficiaries of the project are family and local historians, the cultural sector, the heritage industry, schools, and policy makers. In the first month, we will agree an Impact Plan with the steering group and Industry Partners Group. From the start, we will engage with all potential users through the project blog and website and will stimulate debates which connect academic research to public audiences, as well as encourage and enhance the public use of digital online resources. The economic impact amongst family historians will include driving new subscribers to Ancestry (a model for how humanities research can engage with commercially-driven content providers). We will engage with family historians though contributions to family history magazines, public lectures, and the London Eye. We expect the website to be consulted, like the Old Bailey Online and Founders and Survivors, by many of the 12 million family historians in the UK/Australia, and we hope to harness the power of the community of family historians for crowd-sourcing. Genealogists researching the site will not only learn about their own family histories but also become aware of the wider history of punishment in their regions, thereby enhancing their quality of life. The research team have on-going relationships/connections with the media and we will seek to reach a larger audience and create more impact for our work by disseminating our findings on radio and television programmes, thereby contributing to the quality of cultural life and the economic health of the cultural sector. Our work with the heritage industry will have similar benefits. As reflected in our research theme on 'Digital Dark Tourism', our investigations into the ethics of the opening up of former sites of pain and punishment for personal pleasure involves issues of considerable interest to that industry. Working with our Industry Partnership Group (comprised of representatives of The National Archives, Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, ROAR Film, and the London Metropolitan Archives), we aim to develop best practice within this rapidly-expanding sector of the British and Australian heritage industry. Beyond these partners, gaol, police, and court museums will benefit from our advice (informal and in briefing papers) and we will present at industry-organized seminars. We will also take the digital archive into UK/Australian schools. Our student-centred approach will allow learners of all levels to navigate their own digital learning experience. Through our contacts with NGOs (including the Magistrates' Association, Howard League for Penal Reform, Transform Justice, and Prison Reform Trust) and policy makers, and by the dissemination of briefing papers, the project will increase the effectiveness of public services and policy through the provision of a new and innovative perspective on the longer term impacts of imprisonment. Repeat offenders who serve short prison sentences and quickly re-offend upon release cost the UK economy billions of pounds. The historical perspective provided by this project, and the ability the project has to analyze the impact of different prison and penal regimes on the whole lifetime of offenders can influence policy/public debates. The data will assist the third sector/media to make arguments to policy makers about the efficacy of prisons policy, and to greater engage the public in debates armed with reliable longitudinal digital data.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Given the high rates of recidivism in both the convict systems (in Australia and the UK), with a slightly lower rate for transported Australian convicts, there any lessons that we can learn from this historical data. It would be simplistic to make too close a comparison between the historical and the modern, however, Australian convicts had lower reconviction rates, and were slower to be reconvicted than British convicts, although the statistics for both systems are pretty damning. In the final assessment, we would say that both the Australian and the British convict systems were ineffective attempts to deal with complex socio-economic problems; ones that still consumes policy-makers today. Neither system achieved one of their main aims of significantly curbing re-offending. Many people who went through 'the system' (in the UK and in Australia) were reconvicted; many for serious offences. Alongside our analysis of the different rates of reoffending in each system of punishment, we would first note their remarkable efficiency in manufacturing such high rates of recidivism.
Exploitation Route The data is being used by teachers, lecturers, sentencers and penal reformers.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://www.digitalpanopticon.org
 
Description 'Being Human' Lecture - The Life behind the criminal: Mary Corbett 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A Public lecture given by E D Watkins as part of the Being Human Initiative.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description A talk for Archives for London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk on the Digital Panopticon at the London Metropolitan Archives by R Shoemaker
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Article in the Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Article by H Maxwell-Stewart and B Godfrey in the Conversation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://theconversation.com/children-of-convicts-transported-to-australia-grew-up-taller-than-their-p...
 
Description Article on ABC Australia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact H Maxwell Stewart Authored 'Meticulous records shed light on cross-generational effects of convict transportation to Tasmania', fpr ABC News, August 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-25/the-health-effects-of-convict-transportation-to-tasmania/67203...
 
Description Arts and Humanities Festival University of Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact E D Watkins gave a workshop on the Digital Panopticon Workbench at the Arts and Humanities Festival.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description BBC Radio Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Larissa Allwork interview about the project BBC Radio Sheffield, 8 August 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description BBC Radio Sheffield 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Larissa Allwork, interview about the project on BBC Radio Sheffield, 9 March 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Exhibition - Convict faces, Criminal Lives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An exhibition of research and photographic materials created and curated by B Godfrey, L Williams, and K Price in conjunction with Facelab (Liverpool John Moores University) and held at the Liverpool Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral March 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Exhibition -Criminal Lives: Punishing Old Bailey Convicts, 1780-1925. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An exhibition of research materials and historical artefacts relating to the Digital panopticon created and curated by R Shoemaker, T Hitchcock, and L Allwork. Exhibition held at London Metropolitan archives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/news-events/Pages/criminal...
 
Description Information Stall at AHRC event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact L Allwork presented a Digital Panopticon information stall at the University of Sheffield Arts and Humanities Faculty Showcase, Sheffield Millennium Galleries
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description International Women's Day Lecture - Museum of Liverpool 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Inspirational Women: Female Offenders in Victorian Liverpool' presented by L Williams at the Museum of Liverpool.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description International Women's Day Lecture - Museum of Liverpool 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Being Bold for Change: Recognising and Regulating Prostitution in Nineteenth Century Liverpool' - Public lecture given by L Wiliams at the University of Liverpool.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Media Article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Meredith, D. and Oxley, D. authored 'Australia's Convict Myths', BBC History Magazine Special Bonus Feature Australia Edition
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Newspaper Article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact H Maxwell-Stewart wrote authored ''Pierced hearts, anchors and flower pots: the History of convict Tattoos, for The Daily Telegraph, 3 July 2014
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/pierced-hearts-anchors-and-flower-pots-the-history-of-convict...
 
Description Press Release - 'Treasure Islanders' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview with H Maxwell-Stewart The Australian' 3 Aug 2013
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/treasure-islanders/news-story/fc27...
 
Description Promotional materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Promotional Materials for Port Arthur Historical Site
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
URL http://www.ashleyhay.com.au/uploads/4/1/8/6/4186872/ashley_hay_ag_world_heritage_convict_sites.pdf
 
Description Public Lecture - Being Human Initiative 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public lecture given by E D Watkins on 'British Criminal Justice and Punishment' as part of Being Human.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Public Talk for the London Historian's Society 'History in the Pub' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An evening of talks and music by the Digital Panopticon Team to an audience of the general public by L Williams
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Public talk at the London Metropolitan Archives - The Art of Crime: Convict Art in association with Ikon, Birmingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact L Allwork and L Stauvers public talk at the London Metropolitan Archives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Publication for ABC News 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Article ' Australia's Last Convicts by B Godfrey and L Williams published on ABC News
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-10/australias-last-convicts/9317172
 
Description Radio Interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact H Maxwell-Stewart 'Conversations with Richard Fidler', ABC Australia, 13 June 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/hamish-maxwell-stewart/8630144
 
Description Radio Interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact R Shoemaker Interview on Rony Robinson Show, BBC Radio Sheffield, 13 September 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk for Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk on the digital Panopticon Project for the Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society by R Shoemaker
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk for the History Council of Western Australia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk 'Convicts in Western Australia: The Good, the Bad, and the Ordinary' presented to a general audience at Fremantle Prison, Western Australia by L Williams
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk for the Sheffield & District Family History Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on the Digital Panopticon for the Sheffield & District Family History Society by R Shoemaker
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk: 'The Founders and Survivors and Digital Panopticon Projects' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk Given by H Maxwell-Stewart to the Decendants of Convict Group Australia, Melbourne
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk: Capital Offending: An Historical Audit of Convict Bank Accounts 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A Talk given by H Maxwell-Stewart for the Female Convict Research Group, Hobart.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Talk: Crime as a Product of Societal Failure 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A Talk given by H Maxwell-Stewart to the Female Convict Research Group, Hobart.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk: Female Convict Absconders 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk given by H Maxwell-Stewart for Female Convict Research Group, Hobart
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk: Female Convict Voyages: An Overview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A Talk given by H Maxwell-Stewart to the Female Convict Research Group, Hobart.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk: Runaway Convicts: Absconding Patterns in Colonial Australia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A Talk given by H Maxwell-Stewart at Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk: Sparing the Noose: The Penal Outcomes of Convicts Sentenced to Death at the Old Bailey 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public talk given by R Shoemaker hosted by the IHR British History in the Long Eighteenth Century Seminar at the London Metropolitan Archives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk: Was convict transportation good for the health of convicts and their descendants? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A Talk Given by H Maxwell-Stewart at Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Wigtown Open Book 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talks given by several project staff about 18th and 19th century criminals at Wigtown National Books Town of Scotland Open Book event in February 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.digitalpanopticon.org/?p=1401
 
Description Workshops in public libraries -Trace and explore convict lives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Workshops introducing the Digital Panopticon records and website to a public audience by R Ward and L Williams
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015