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Georgetown Law Library

Legal History: Crime and Punishment Research Guide

This guide details primary English and American resources on the history of crime and punishment.

Crime & Punishment ‹ Prisons ‹ The Old Bailey

The Old Bailey Sessions House and the adjacent Newgate Prison in London witnessed the proceedings of the criminal trials for the City of London and County of Middlesex. The Sessions were held eight times a year, starting roughly each November, following the election of the Lord Mayor of London. The criminal court system was completely overhauled in 1834 with the creation of the Central Criminal Court.

In these trials, men, women and children were accused of felonies ranging from shoplifting to homicide, and more often than not found guilty, sent off to be executed, whipped, branded or transported. These proceedings were occasionally published during the 1670s in pamphlet form often under titles such as News From the Sessions House in the Old Bailey. These commercial publications were poorly printed, but very popular, and few of them survived. By the 1680s, booksellers negotiated with the Lord Mayors for the right to print the criminal sessions, eight times a year, in a more regular format, under the title The Proceedings on the King‰s Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery of Newgate, Held for the City of London and County of Middlesex at Justice Hall in the Old Bailey, commonly called The Proceedings, also called The Old Bailey Session Papers [OBSP]. The title changed in 1834, with the creation of the Central Criminal Court, but the coverage remained the same.

The library has The Proceedings in complete volumes from 1729 to 1888 in Special Collections. There is also a microfilm copy of The Proceedings from 1714 to 1834, so that the library has all published trials in a continuous fashion from 1714 to 1888. The microfiche set was filmed from the set ofProceedings at the Harvard Law Library, and is often difficult to use; the print is so dark at times, it bleeds through to the other side of the paper, and becomes unreadable on the microfilm itself. The printed set in Special Collections is bound in volumes of 2-3 years each, and includes an index of punishments to each session, and a general index to the entire year.

The Old Bailey Proceedings are also now available online at This is a searchable online edition of The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, which covers the years 1674 to 1834. It contains accounts of over 100,000 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court. These are transcripts of the trials, including digital photos of the original pages. The transcripts are searchable by keyword, name, place, Crime, Verdict and Punishment, and can also be browsed by date. There are advanced searching pages, statistical searching, and associated records searching capabilities.

Research in types of crime, punishment, gender treatment, and acquittal can be done with The Proceedings, as well as analyzing crimes and punishment over the years, and following the misfortunes of those who passed through the Old Bailey. The occasional pamphlets for the years 1670 to 1714 are very rare in the United States, but they can be found using First Search and/or RLIN databases, as well as checking individual academic libraries‰ catalogs online.

The Library has a few of these individual trials published before 1714 in microfiche. Check the International Law Media area in Wolff Library, for guides to the trials on microfilm and microfiche. See also Howell‰s State Trials, and other collections of trials in Section VIII: Crime and Punishment in England and Europe ‹ Primary Works, above.

KD370.O62 1984 Pts. 1-2
The Old Bailey Proceedings, Parts One and Two [1714-1834]. Brighton, Sussex, England: Harvester Microform, 1984. 38 reels of microfilm.

Microfilm edition of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1714 to 1834, filmed from the set at Harvard Law Library. A Listing and Guide to the Harvester Microfilm Collection accompanies the film.

KD7865.A2 G7 1730 Quarto
The Proceedings on the King‰s Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery of Newgate, Held for the City of London and County of Middlesex at Justice Hall in the Old Bailey, , 1729-1888.167 vols. London: T. Payne, [and others],1729-1888.

Published eight times per year, and bound together in 2-3 years. An index to each session and general annual index is attached.

KD370.G7 1816 Mfilm
Central Criminal Court Sessions Papers. London: T. Booth, etc. ,1816-1913.

Popularly known as The Old Bailey Sessions Papers. Overlaps the microfilm coverage of the Old Bailey Sessions Papers, 1714-1834.

HV6943.C6 1926
The Complete Newgate Calendar. 5 vols. London: Navarre Society, 1926.

KD8289.H66 1935
Hopkins, R. Thurston. Life and Death at the Old Bailey. London: Herbert Jenkins, Ltd., 1935.

HV6950.L7 K5 1996r
Kingston, Charles. Dramatic Days at the Old Bailey. Holmes Beach, Fl.: Gaunt, 1996. Reprint of London: Stanley Paul, 1923.

KD8454.N4 K55
Knapp, Andrew. The New Newgate Calendar: Being Interesting Memoirs of Notorious Characters, Who Have Been Convicted of Outrages on the Laws of England, During the Seventeenth Century, Brought Down to the Present Time. 5 vols. Buffalo, N.Y.: Dennis & Co., no date.

KD7869.L35 1913
Lamb, Frederick. Forty Years in the Old Bailey With a Summary of the Leading Cases and Points of Law and Practice. London: Stevens & sons, Ltd.,1913.

HV6945.N48 1974r
The Newgate Calendar. London: Folio Press, 1974. Reprint of London: Folio Society, 1951.

KD8289.O36 1950
O‰Donnell, Bernard. The Old Bailey and Its Trials. London: Clerke & Cocheran, 1950.

KD370.S45 1985
Select Trials at the Sessions-House in the Old Bailey. 4 vols. New York: Garland Pub., 1985. Reprint of London: John Applebee, 1742.

Covers trials from 1720 to 1741.

KD8454.N44 K55 1800 Octavo
Wilkinson, George T. The Newgate Calendar Improved: Being Interesting Memoirs of Notorious Characters Who Have Been Convicted of Offences Against the Laws of England, During the Seventeenth Century, and Continued to the Present Time, Chronologically Arranged. 6 vols. London: For Thomas Kelly, 1825.

K150.N45 Mfiche 53341-53345
Wontner, Thomas. Old Bailey Experience. Criminal Jurisprudence and the Actual Working of Our Penal code of Laws. Also, an Essay on Prison Discipline, to Which is Added a History of the Crimes Committed by Offenders in the Present Day. London: J. Fraser, 1833. Reprinted in microfiche, 1990 by Research Publications, 19th Century Legal Treatises no. 53341-53345.