This book is dedicated to everyone who helped create the Old Bailey Online and London Lives

First of all, we would like to thank the funders who made this book and the underlying electronic resources possible: the ESRC, funders of the ‘Plebeian Lives’ project; and the AHRC and Big Lottery Fund, who underwrote the Old Bailey Online, which in turn laid the foundations for ‘Plebeian Lives’.

This book may have two names on the cover, but it is the product of the work of many more; all of whom deserve more credit than can be given in a simple acknowledgement. Most importantly, Dr Sharon Howard managed the digitisation projects that underpin this book (both London Lives and, from 2005, the Old Bailey Online), and she also managed the online PMwiki environment in which the book was drafted as a collaborative text. Every page reflects her technical skill, her commitment to the project and her willingness to devise a solution to each new problem. Neither this book, nor the London Lives website would exist without her.

The ‘Plebeian Lives’ project was implemented by the Higher Education Digitisation Service at the University of Hertfordshire and the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. At Hertfordshire, Ian Brearey, Asif Mohammed Farook and Geoff Laycock managed the initial rekeying process that underpins the site. At Sheffield we are particularly indebted to Jamie McLaughlin, Digital Humanities Developer at the HRI, who designed the underlying data infrastructure and made the website work. Katherine Rogers and Ed MacKenzie developed the automated text markup, and David Shepherd, former Director of the HRI, and Michael Pidd, Manager of HRI Digital, oversaw all the technical work, ensuring that the project came to a successful conclusion. Mary Clayton and Louise Falcini served as untiring research assistants in the archives of London, ensuring that the right materials were digitised to the best standard we could afford. And a team of ‘data developers’, under the leadership of Dr Philippa Hardman, embedded and checked the XML mark-up that makes it possible to search the digitised text effectively. We are grateful to Anna Bayman, Eilidh Garrett, Carol Lewis-Roylance, Susan Parkinson, Anna Simmons, Gwen Smithson, Nicola Wilcox and Catherine Wright for their hard work. Ed Duncan and Viki Philpott contributed to the project as postgraduate interns, researching and writing several biographies (’lives’). The list could go on. A website such as London Lives is not a book, it does not have an author (or even two). It is the product of many hands, and we would like to give credit to the wider collaboration involved. The same could be said about the original Old Bailey Online project.

We were beneficiaries of many contributions on the journey from website to book. Our undergraduate students, at both Sheffield and Hertfordshire, helped us to understand the material and suffered as we tried out one idea after another. Several Sheffield students are among the authors of the lives. Our postgraduate students, current and former, contributed through both reading sections of the text and acting as sounding boards for our ideas as they evolved. In this capacity we are grateful to Louise Falcini, Des Newell, Dianne Payne, Janice Turner, Richard Ward and Matthew White. We have also benefited hugely from the advice and criticism of many academic friends who took the time to read the manuscript. Their generosity was unstinting and exemplifies the best traditions of the scholarly community. Most importantly, Jeremy Boulton went through the text with a fine-toothed comb, saving us from real error and embarrassing misinterpretations. He and Leonard Schwarz also very generously allowed us access to their work on the St Martin in the Fields workhouse registers and settlement examinations. Joanna Innes also read the full manuscript, and her comments gave us pause for thought, again saving us from significant errors. John Levin, Katrina Navickas, Heather Shore, Brodie Waddell, Tim Wales, Richard Ward and Phil Withington all read and commented insightfully on sections of the text.

Our home departments and institutions, at the Universities of Sheffield and Hertfordshire, and more recently Sussex, have also been hugely supportive. When combined with colleagues in the wider academy, we have been fortunate to work in a stimulating community of historians. We would particularly like to thank John Beattie, Simon Devereaux, Drew Gray, Peter King, Andrea McKenzie and Deirdre Palk. Robert Shoemaker is also indebted to Elizabeth Foyster, David Garrioch, David Lemmings, Randall McGowen, Nick Tosney and Phil Withington; while Tim Hitchcock has benefited from working with Adam Crymble, Simon DeDeo, Seth Denbo, Richard Deswarte, Jo Guldi, Sara Klingenstein, William Turkel, Peter Webster, Susan Whyman and Jane Winters.

The ideas presented in this book evolved over two decades and more; and did so in dialogue with a powerfully supportive historical community. Much of this community was forged at the Long Eighteenth-Century Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, and we would like to acknowledge our debt to the convenors, past and present: Arthur Burns, Pene Corfield, Adam Crymble, Amanda Goodrich, Leonie Hannan, Sally Holloway, Julian Hoppitt and Sarah Lloyd. The valued friends and colleagues who have attended the seminar over the decades are too numerous to name, but each has made history writing more fun. Sections of the text and argument have also been presented at other seminars and conferences, and we would like to thank the organisers and audiences of BSECS (Oxford, 2009), Anglo-American Conference (London, 2009), NACBS (Louisville, 2009), British Crime Historians (Sheffield, 2010), MLA (Los Angeles, 2011), UC Berkeley (2011), Oxford Brookes (2011), Centre for the Historical Record and Public History (Kingston, 2011), David Nichols Smith Conference (Melbourne, 2011), Cambridge Graduate Seminar in Modern British History (2012), Oxford e-Research Centre (2012), Gerald Aylmer Seminar, RHS (2012), Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester (2013), Free University of Brussels (2013), University of British Columbia, Victoria (2013) and the Open University (Milton Keynes, 2013).

This is also a better book for the contributions of the anonymous readers who ploughed through the sample chapters and final manuscript. We tried hard to heed their warnings against hyperbole and breathlessness, and while we may not have succeeded completely, we know the text is better for their warnings. We would also like to thank Richard Fisher, who encouraged the project of the e-monograph from its inception, and Elizabeth Friend-Smith, commissioning editor. Charlotte Thomas acted as production editor, Dr Jacqueline French copy-edited the manuscript and the index was compiled by Dr Richard Ward. We are grateful to all three for their great care and hard work.

On a personal level we would like to thank our partners and sons, Sonia and Nick Hitchcock, and Wendy Bracewell and Roland Shoemaker. This book took a decade from conception to publication and debts beyond repayment were incurred on every day of that decade.

Our errors and failures are our own, but this book is the product of friends and family, collaborators and critics, and we thank them all.