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A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

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The good old days

Via The Volokh Conspiracy, this is a database of the records of the Old Bailey from 1674 to 1834. It's extremely nifty in that it has a graphing tool so you can easily analyse crimes, verdicts and punishments. I used it to generate a graph of crimes involving killing by decade (all verdicts).

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The results are quite interesting. Apparently the Old Bailey saw between 10 and 15 cases involving killing each year during this period. Call it one per month. I wonder how many it is now?

To get a handle on the answer to this question, I've searched the Google News archive for pleas to charges of murder in 2006 and come up with 27 stories. Some, however, are duplicates and others are not actually Old Bailey cases at all. The edited list looks like this:

  1. the Monkton murder
  2. Mohammed Ali & his brother
  3. Tom ap Rhys Price
  4. Damilola Taylor
  5. Billie Jo Jenkins
  6. Trial of Daniel Gonzalez who killed four
  7. Samantha Renfrew
  8. Anne Mendel
  9. John Curran (reduced to manslaughter)
  10. Samaira Nazir
  11. Rochelle Holness
  12. Peter Woodhams
  13. Sally Anne Bowman

I think it's fair to say that by the time you've added in the manslaughter charges (and possibly the attempted murder charges too - the definition used is not clear) the current figure will be well in excess of what we saw in previous centuries.

This all deeply unscientific of course, but interesting nevertheless. 

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Reader Comments (11)

May I suggest laying that off against the relative populations at the time as well.

May give a slightly better view.

Jul 24, 2007 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterIanP
You are right, Ian. I thought about this, but then realised I was going to have to do all the manslaughter and attempted murder cases as well as finding the population figures, which would have been a long job, particularly as the Old Bailey covers much of the SE of England as well as London itself.
Jul 24, 2007 at 7:14 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
No need to go into too much depth, just keep it ball park, and relate to it by percentage.

i.e. If your first figure of 72 in 17xx and the population was only abut 5 million for the UK, that would equate to approx 720 if the population is 50 million (a little nearer todays figures).

So the per capita murder rate has not necessarily risen to a disproportionate amount.

Jul 24, 2007 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterIanP
Forgive my intrusion which might appear as an attempt to poach readers (which it is not!) but I have been trying, over at my place, in my own modest way to keep track of the current murder rate on a day-by-day basis under the heading of "They died in vain". I don't pretend that it is wholly accurate but in a tickle over two months 124 people have been slaughtered.
Jul 24, 2007 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Duff

The figure of 72 is for the Old Bailey only. This is what is putting me off - I need to get population figures for London and the South-East in 1730.
Jul 24, 2007 at 6:58 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Link tarting encouraged here!
Jul 24, 2007 at 6:59 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Hm. Did the Old Bailey always cover the same area, I was going to ask. (Evidently yes) Maybe it was easier in previous centuries for people to vanish without trace without being investigated (who by?). I'm afraid I struggle to learn anything from any figures from such different societies, albeit societies which happened to occupy the same space at different times.
Jul 24, 2007 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPurple Scorpion
IIRC from the Old Bailey website, it has always covered more than London itself, but you are right that this is unlikely to ever give anything that could be mistaken for a scientifically rigorous study. In some ways it might actually tell us more about the effectiveness of the police in getting cases to trial than the number of killings per se.

Jul 25, 2007 at 6:27 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Bishop, In Canada, crime rates have fallen, including violent crimes. When adjusted for population, we have fewer murders now than 50 years ago and certainly more than 30 years ago. However, if you go back to the 1800s, the story changes, fewer violent crimes per capita. At any rate, people are more alarmed today than in previous years, thanks to the media.

Thanks for doing this analysis, very interesting.
Jul 27, 2007 at 5:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Nicklin
Does anyone know what caused violent crime rates to rise in the middle?
Jul 27, 2007 at 6:45 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
I haven't seen any explanations.
Jul 27, 2007 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Nicklin

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