Our Criminal past

‘Our Criminal Past’ is an interdisciplinary research network of UK-based stakeholders who are working academically and/or professionally in the field of the criminal, legal and penal history of Britain.

The creation of the network was in recognition of the growing importance of ‘our criminal past’, not only to academics but also to archivists, heritage professionals, educationalists and others in the wider community who have an investment in how our criminal past is to be preserved, presented and transmitted. Three inter-related themes have been identified as important areas of cross and multidisciplinary interest in terms of previous, current and future research that have contemporary and cultural significance beyond the academia. These are: Digitisation: Social Media and Crime History; Educating Historians of Crime: Classroom, Archive, Community; and Representing Penal Histories: Displaying and Narrating our Criminal Past.

Our series of network events brought together experts from a range of disciplines, including history, criminology, education, tourism and cultural studies, with archivists and those engaged in an educational and heritage capacity in museums and prisons. The events were a forum for discussion and debate about future strategic research planning and collaborations, the sustainability of research in relation to new technology and funding streams, and the role of individuals, communities and institutions in shaping and preserving our criminal past. Through the sharing of expertise and good practice, we explored ideas that would lead to new projects in the history of crime, thus ‘Caring for the Future’ of the history of crime.

Key Contacts

Dr Helen Johnston, University of Hull:

Professor Heather Shore, Leeds Beckett University:


Event 1: Our Criminal Past: Digitisation, Social Media and Crime History, London Metropolitan Archives, 17 May 2013

Event 2: Our Criminal Past: Educating Historians of Crime: Classroom, Archive, Community, Broadcasting Place, Leeds Beckett University, 6 September 2013

Event 3: Our Criminal Past: Representing Penal Histories: Displaying and Narrating the Criminal Past, Galleries of Justice, Nottingham, 31 January 2014

Latest Updates on Twitter

‘She looked wild’: Infanticide and insanity in nineteenth-century Victoria

Mrs HOWELL brought up her assigned servant MARY EDWARDS for having absented herself from service, & this being the 3rd offence of similar depravity, the mistress did not entertain any particular wish that MOLLY should “pleat” or “clear-starch” any more.

Trying to find records about crime, policing and punishment in your ancestry or local history - See #crimehistory #genealogy #familyhistory Source Guide available ‘getting started’ @wdytyamagazine @RiponMuseums @ERidingLMA

Trying to find records about crime, policing and punishment in your ancestry or local history - See #crimehistory #genealogy #familyhistory Source Guide available ‘getting started’ @wdytyamagazine

Thanks to @nycclibraries #Ripon library for hosting our FREE Find Your Criminal Ancestor event on June 20th @ourcriminalpast - FFI and to book a place :
#police #history

Looking forward to the LFFHS conference at #Preston tomorrow. I'll be doing two talks: one on children's homes and one on reformatories, industrial schools etc.

A new dataviz of changing patterns of @OldBaileyOnline trials. Each horizontal bar represents one sessions between 1716 and 1913 with 1 tile per trial, coloured by offence category. I rather like this, complements heatmaps here

Women's History Network Small Grants Scheme

Small grants of £1,000 for 1-day conferences on women’s history, organised by full time or part time postgraduates in universities or other HE institutions

Deadline: 13 July 2018
#twitterstorians #womenshistory

How can family historians, genealogists, academic historians, archives & libraries collaborate?

We're contributing to this great workshop on 14 July @LeedsCityMuseum:

All welcome! @railwaymuseum @DrLauraKing @JackieDepelle #ancestryhour @FederationFHS

TODAY I AM CELEBRATING! My edited volume, A Global History of Convicts & Penal Colonies, is out. Antoinette Burton: "A stunning account of convict circuitry across the globe." David Arnold: "Global history at its most innovative, insightful and combative."