Oranges and Lemons

Interesting piece in the NYT about the potential for analysis of digitised historic records. The particular research looks at the changing attitudes to violent crime as compared with property crime using keywords, though I am not wedded to believing in the reporter’s example of ‘kick’ as a strong trigger word — read the piece.

The source? those wonderful British of yore who would not stop writing things down. As the Times says: “The corpus includes 121 million words describing 197,000 trials over 239 years. According to researchers, it represents the largest existing body of transcribed trial evidence for historical crime; it is, they say, the most detailed recording of real speech in printed form anywhere in the world.”

Thank-you, thank-you those scribes and shorthand reporters, copyists and clerks.

Worth going to the Old Bailey site and spending five minutes — or a day — reading a selection of the transcripts. Pick a year, pick a crime.

Link to New York Times


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