A one day Unconference to mark the Completion of the London Lives website
Criminal Connections: Uncovering Plebeian Networks in the Eighteenth Century Metropolis
This presentation will focus on the use of integrated online sources in order to recreate criminal lives and to understand the various networks of which individual criminals were part. Historians have tended to focus on a top-down approach to the history of crime and criminal justice. Individual offenders are frequently marginalized in such histories. As a result our understanding of those activities defined as criminal and delinquent can be anecdotal, with little focus on the experience and agency of such individuals. In this session I would aim to assess the benefits of considering such individuals over a longer trajectory, and across a broad body of primary sources. Considering individual offenders within a broader timeline enables historians to not only identify the various networks within which criminals operated, but also enriches our understanding of the experience of criminality. As well as the practical issues involved in identifying such criminal genealogies, this session would aim to address the advantages and disadvantages of using close textual examination of individual criminal lives. How do historians negotiate the gap between the particularistic and important questions about ‘agency’ in relation to the broader developments in the criminal justice system of the eighteenth century?