Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research


Sussex academic’s ‘pathfinding’ work featured on BBC Four

Prof Tim Hitchcock

Sussex historian Tim Hitchcock and the Sussex Humanities Lab will feature on a BBC Four documentary about “big data” on 20th July at 9.00pm.

The Joy of Data’, presented by mathematician Hannah Fry, will tell the story of how data is captured, stored and made sense of. And Tim, Professor of Digital History, will discuss his project that has involved digitising 150 years of court records of the Old Bailey.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey is an online resource of 20 million words that enables historians and members of the public to find new ways to look at the past. It has also inspired BBC dramas.

Archie Baron, Executive Producer ‘The Joy of Data’, said: “When we were seeking the best possible example of the transformative power of using big data techniques to change our understanding of society, the work done by Sussex historian Tim Hitchcock leapt out.

“The work he and his Digital Humanities team have done on the Old Bailey records is truly pathfinding. And as Tim articulates so well in the programme, it points the way forward to remarkable discoveries in the future.

“When you can measure the signal strength and use big data techniques to extract meaning from any text corpuses, however large – google books, newspapers, parliament, sermons – whole new avenues of research open up. It’s a thrilling element in our story – and one most people, who associate data mostly with numbers – will find rather surprising.”

Tim, who, in addition to The Proceedings of the Old Bailey,  has created a series of websites helping to give direct public access to 30 billion words of primary sources evidencing the history of Britain (including London Lives, 1690-1800 Locating London's Past and Connected Histories) says of his work: “Historians can now use the same tools as scientists to further illuminate what we know – and don’t know - about the past. The key is in knowing which questions to ask.”

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Posted on behalf of: Sussex Humanities Lab
Last updated: Monday, 18 July 2016