Preface to 2015 Edition

This book is one facet of a larger project: ‘Plebeian Lives and the Making of Modern London, 1690–1800’. Originally funded by the ESRC (RES-000-23-1217), this project digitised and made searchable some 240,000 pages of manuscript materials reflecting on criminal justice and poor relief in eighteenth-century London. The website, London Lives 1690–1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis, provides access to these materials in combination with fifteen modern datasets created by previous projects. In total London Lives gives direct access to 3.35 million name instances, and allows users to link together records relating to the same individual. In doing so, it makes it possible to trace individual life histories and to assess the role plebeian Londoners played in shaping the development of modern social policy. This book is constructed as a product of that website and largely reflects the results of our research in it.

Since the vast majority of the sources consulted are freely available on the London Lives website, this book is best read online, allowing you to click through directly from the primary sources cited and quoted in the text to transcriptions and images of the original documents. Where possible, we have also linked to modern secondary literature and to printed primary sources, including Google Books and the English Short Title Catalogue for printed primary literature, and to the British Library’s Ethos system for unpublished doctoral theses. With Google Books we have linked to volumes available through ‘Snippet’ or ‘Preview’ functions, but not to those which provide only bibliographical data. With one exception we have restricted links to freely available materials. Where a pay wall makes the materials inaccessible for many or most readers, we have noted our use of the sites, including URLs and a date, but have not provided direct links. The exception to this rule of thumb is journal articles where a secure link could be identified, even when the relevant source was not freely available to all users.

We hope that these links will facilitate a new approach to reading monographs in which readers switch back and forth between the original sources, the contextual secondary interpretation, and the monograph itself - gaining a deeper understanding of the period and argument. The book is also designed to be read offline and in hard copy; and we have used a standard footnote referencing system so that readers can locate and follow up our sources, both online and in print, however they choose to read the book. For readers of the hard copy who wish to follow up references to the London Lives website (’LL’), document reference numbers should simply be typed in the appropriate box on the search page. For references to ‘sets’, see below, p. 24, n. 67. For ‘lives’, go to

Whether online or offline, or in some combination of the two, we hope you will find this book both accessible and rewarding.

Preface to 2020 Open Access Edition

In its hardback and paperback forms, this book was well-received following its publication in 2015, but the electronic edition struggled. The variety and complexity of e-book readers available meant that the press had to produce several different versions, most of which did not attract readers. Some versions have failed to sell a single copy while the total volume of sales of the electronic versions accounts for only a fraction (12 per cent) of the copies sold. The most popular electronic version is in a pdf format, which means many of the functionalities built into the e-book are not available.

Given that the book was written with an online readership in mind, this was very disappointing, and we are very grateful to Cambridge University Press for allowing us to launch this new open access edition. By removing the paywall, we are able to publish the book in a form with all the online functionalities enabled, so readers can not only navigate more easily through the book, between the text, notes, and index, but can also follow links to external primary and secondary sources with ease, and access the sixteen datasets from which many of the graphs and tables were compiled. We believe this format represents a possible future for online monographs.

Except in a very small number of instances, we have not revised the text or notes. But we have checked all the external links. In the five years since they were last checked, a small number changed urls or disappeared from the internet, but what was more impressive was the increased amount of material we could link to. Our policy on external references is to link to authoritative sites, such as the English Short Title Catalogue and the UK Parliamentary Archives, and, owing to their permanence, to use digital object identifiers (DOIs), where available, for journal articles and citations of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

To ensure that the links provided are meaningful for users of this edition, we have continued to restrict them to instances where substantive content is publicly accessible. We have not included live links to the British Library’s collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century newspapers accessible via Gale and the UK Parliamentary Papers, accessible via ProQuest, because users can only access these commercial resources via an institutional subscription. We acknowledge that we consulted the online version of these sources, rather than the original paper or microfilm, but it is not possible to provide accessible links to them in our notes.

We are grateful for research funding from the University of Sussex for support in creating this new edition. We would also like to thank Michael Pidd and the team at the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield, both for hosting this book and the associated databases, but also for their long-term contribution to the creation of the digital resources on which this book is based.

Finally, we are extremely grateful to Sharon Howard, multi-talented programming historian, who transformed the original text into the highly readable version you can access in this edition. In the process, she overcame numerous hurdles, not least our hard-to-suppress desire to add new functionalities at every turn. This edition could not have been published without her patience and expertise.

TH and RS,

June 2020



British Library


Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection, accessible via Gale


London Lives 1690 to 1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis (


London Metropolitan Archives


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (


House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, accessible via ProQuest


Westminster Archives Centre