Mining the Old Bailey

This week on DITA we learnt about data mining and used the API Demonstrator to test data mining out as well as do some text analysis. I was excited to use the Old Bailey API to look at transcripts of some of my favourite cases. That is until I realise all my favourite cases occurred after 1913. Nevertheless, I decided to search crimes involving secondary participation.

pic1First, I used the general search bar on the website. Since secondary participation is a more recent term, I used key words such as ‘aiding’ and ‘abetting’. I was also interested in murder cases in particular and decided to search under these terms and it returned with 172 results.

I then decided to use the API demonstrator, using it to find out about the number of killings that are committed by women and that are found guilty. It’s pretty interesting because it allows you to break it down by subcategories and other aspects of the trial. It’s interesting to see how its format is similar to that of text analysis tools such as voyant.

pic 2 I later drilled it down to the fours trials concerning highway robbery and tried to export the four results but it doesn’t work immediately. I tried again when I got home when I thought there would be less traffic and it worked!

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Overall , the site worked fairly well despite the troubles with exporting the data to Voyant. I feel like this would be a particularly helpful tool for people taking cases for reference, if people wanted to go through the old law they could take old cases, run it through Voyant and analyse how often certain details of a case crop up such as who heard as well as how relevant legal concepts such as defences were relevant. Part of me wish I knew things such as distant reading, text analysis and coding while I was still doing law… It might have been easier for me to sift through and find cases relevant to my research.


While I was waiting for the API Demonstrator to export my data to Voyant, I decided to move on to the Utrecht University Digital Humanities Lab and read about the ABO (Annotated Books Online) Project which aims to understand how users in the past use their books by what they annotate in them and holds about 60 copies of annotated books.

pic5The search function allows you to search by specific terms such as language.

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It searches the text by annotations and will give translations and additional annotations to them. I searched an earlier annotation that had the word ‘deer’ to test how it worked at first. Unlike Old Bailey, it highlights the annotation on the actual scanned document possibly because it is important to understand the context in which the annotation is made. It offers less search conditions compared to Old Bailey but again this could be because of the type of data both of them are collecting, for the Old Bailey it may be more useful for them to be able to sift through the data through categories such as verdict, offence, defendant’s details, etc. It may be harder to find any other way to categorise the annotations other than by language and such.

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For some reason transcriptions are not on all the pages, either it is not something they aim to do or that they haven’t transcribed the annotations. You can view several books at the same time which is a nice touch however quite frustrating that it doesn’t point out where the annotations are. I wish there is an option to read through texts that have already been transcribed/annotated but hopefully in the future when there is more done on the project! It’s both interesting in context and I look forward to testing out data mining where more of its information has been digitised!

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