In my previous blog I alluded to the difficulties I encountered in choosing such a broad topic as British Literature, however I continued along this theme and decided to create a connection of all things related to capital punishment, and the number of results were astounding.
I decided to use four consecutive searches, so that my connections could be listed thematically. For example, having all pamphlets together and all court cases together, regardless of the search term used. It is unfortunate that once connections are created there is not a feature that enables you to change the order of the sources involved, so this is how I attempted to get round that very issue. The searches I used together were “Death Penalty”, “Capital Punishment”, “Death Sentence” and “Execution”, keeping the quotation marks in place so that the terms were searched as an entire phrase. The searches yielded these results respectively; 274, 3,505, 194 and finally 364,580 which was just too unmanagable to go through given my time restrictions.
The House of Commons Parliamentary Papers online yielded a significant number of results, which is unsurprising considering the number of changes in the legal status of Capital Punishment across the period Connected Histories covers, with its complete abolition not occurring until the twentieth century. The Nineteenth Century British Pamphlet collection provided an interesting comparative insight, with articles and pamphlets promulgating views both for and against the death penalty, providing me with over 30 sources for the connection. The John Johnson Collection presented a number of repeat results , however I was also gifted satirical cartoons and a mumber of quite graphic images that may interest the more gore-minded viewer! The Old Bailey Online unsurprisingly provided a plethora of cases which ended in the recommendation of the outcome of death, most of which occurred in light of murder or royal offences. I selected a handful of these to provided examples in my connection, however there are many more to view at http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/
The vast majority of sources I encountrered were governmental documents or propagandized pamphlets. However, almost none of these have free universal access and so this connection may well be more useful for a student or academic audience. Furthermore, as mentioned above, Capital Punishment may have been too broad a topic to create a succinct collection of sources which, in my opinion, makes for the best connections. In future, I would perhaps break this down into different types of capital punishment; creating connections on, say, ‘gibbeting’, ‘hung, drawn and quatering’, or ‘burning at the stake’. Would these be the sorts of things you would like to see, or do yourself?
See the work I did at Connected Histories here: http://www.connectedhistories.org/connection.aspx?c=140