Professor Robert Shoemaker
M.A., Ph.D. (Stanford) FRHistS
Department of History
Professor of Eighteenth-Century British History
Full contact details
Department of History
1 Upper Hanover Street
I am Professor of Eighteenth-Century British history. My main interests lie in social and cultural history, particularly urban history, gender history, and the history of crime, justice and punishment, and in the use of digital technologies in historical research. My first book, Prosecution and Punishment: Petty Crime and the Law in London and Rural Middlesex, ca. 1660-1725, (1991) examined the social impact of the prosecution of petty crime in London. A developing interest in gender led me to write Gender in English Society, 1650-1850: The Emergence of Separate Spheres? (1998) and edit a collection, with Mary Vincent, Gender and History in Western Europe (1998). Combining my interests on gender and crime, I subsequently wrote articles on masculinity and violence, public defamation, and public punishments, focusing particularly on eighteenth-century London.
These articles led to the publication of The London Mob: Violence and Disorder in Eighteenth-Century England (Hambledon and London, 2004), which charts the changing nature of public conflict in eighteenth-century London, focusing on street life, litigation, and the press. It documents the decline of the defamatory public insult and public violence; the changing character of duelling; the transformation of popular responses to public punishments such as the pillory; the changing character of popular protest; and the new role played by print in shaping public life.
I am co-director, with Professor Tim Hitchcock at the University of Hertfordshire and Professor Clive Emsley of the Open University, of the Old Bailey Proceedings Online, which created a fully searchable edition of the entire run of published accounts of trials which took place at the Old Bailey from 1674 to 1913, and, with Hitchcock, London Lives, 1690-1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis, a fully searchable edition of 240,000 manuscript records and fifteen datasets which makes it possible to compile biographies of eighteenth-century Londoners. Using material from this resource, myself and Hitchcock published a monograph, London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
In January 2011 myself and Hitchcock were awarded the Longman-History Today Trustees Award, presented to a person, persons or organisation that has made a major contribution to history, for our work on the Old Bailey and London Lives projects.
Since then I have co-directed three further major projects (all completed): Connected Histories (an integrated search facility for interrogating more than twenty major electronic resources in British history, 1500-1800); Locating London's Past, (a mapping facility which allows a wide body of digital resources relating to early modern and eighteenth-century London to be mapped onto a fully GIS compliant version of John Rocque's 1746 map); and The Digital Panopticon: The Global Impact of London Punishments, 1780-1925, an AHRC funded 'Digital Transformations' project which used digital technologies to link together four million records from existing and new genealogical, biometric and criminal justice datasets in order to explore the impact of different types of punishments on the lives of 66,000 people convicted at The Old Bailey between 1780 and 1865. I am particularly interested in exploring the differences between the punishments convicts were sentenced to by the courts, and the actual punishments they received. A chapter on the pardoning process, which led to a large number of capital convicts being 'spared the noose', is in press.
I am currently partly retired and working part-time, with a focus on research and postgraduate research supervision. I am no longer taking new PhD students. For my current projects, see the 'research' section.
- Research interests
My recent research interests include how knowledge about crime was created in eighteenth and nineteenth-century London. Through analysis of the literature of crime and by examining evidence of its reception in private correspondence and diaries, I have examined how the explosion of print culture shaped public attitudes towards crime. Results of this work can be seen in my articles on changing representations of highway robbery and the representation of crime and criminal justice in the Old Bailey Proceedings, a chapter on print culture and the creation of public knowledge about crime, a Past and Present article on 'Worrying about Crime: Experience, moral panics and public opinion in London, 1660-1800', and article about the phenomenon of the criminal celebrity.
I am currently working on two digital projects. I am co-investigator on the ESRC project, Victims' Access to Justice through English Criminal Courts, 1675 to the present, which is examining the changing combination of rights, resources and responsibilities accorded to victims of crime in England over three centuries. I am overseeing the creation and analysis of a new database of victims of crime at the Old Bailey derived from the Old Bailey Proceedings, and researching the roles of the statutory rewards system, legal counsel and the police in encouraging and managing prosecutions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
I am principal investigator of a British Academy funded Digital Research Grant, Analysing Criminal Tattoos through Data Mining and Visualisation, which has extracted 76,000 descriptions of tattooed convicts from the Digital Panopticon database, and is using visualisations to identify key patterns in this richly detailed data over the period 1791-1925 and ascertain the changing meaning and significance of tattooing in English society.
- London Lives Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- London Lives. Cambridge University Press.
- Gender in English Society, 1650–1850. Routledge.
- Understanding the Criminal: Record-Keeping, Statistics, and the Early History of Criminology in England, 1780-1860. British Journal of Criminology, 57(6), 1442-1461. View this article in WRRO
- Worrying About Crime: Experience, Moral Panics and Public Opinion in London, 1660–1800. Past and Present, 234(1), 71-100. View this article in WRRO
- Making History Online. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 25, 75-93. View this article in WRRO
- Forty Years of Crime in London (Journal). London Journal, 40(2), 89-105. View this article in WRRO
- The First English Detectives: The Bow Street Runners and the Policing of London, 1750-1840. By John Beattie. Oxford University Press. 2012. xiii + 272. £65.00.. History, 98(330), 292-294.
- Connected Histories: A New Web Search Tool for British Historians. History, 96(323), 354-356.
- Narrating the Poor. EIGHTEENTH-CENT LIFE, 34(3), 94-98.
- Print and the Female Voice: Representations of Women's Crime in London, 1690-1735. Gender and History, 22(1), 75-91.
- Lost Londons: change, crime and control in the capital city, 1550-1660. ECON HIST REV, 62(3), 738-739.
- Crime and Law in England, 1750-1840: Remaking Justice from the Margins. ENGL HIST REV, 124(507), 443-445.
- Women and violent crime in enlightenment Scotland. ENGL HIST REV, 123(503), 1047-1048.
- View this article in WRRO The Old Bailey proceedings and the representation of crime and criminal justice in eighteenth-century London. J BRIT STUD, 47(3), 559-580.
- Gender, crime and judicial discretion, 1780-1830. ENGL HIST REV, 123(502), 763-764.
- Riotous assemblies: popular protest in Hanoverian England. ECON HIST REV, 61(1), 239-240.
- Digitising History From Below: The Old Bailey Proceedings Online, 1674-1834. History Compass, 4(2), 193-202.
- Editorial. The London Journal, 30(1), 2-4.
- Men of blood: Violence, manliness, and criminal justice in Victorian England.. J BRIT STUD, 44(3), 653-654.
- Helen Berry, Gender, Society and Print Culture in Late-Stuart England: The Cultural World of the Athenian Mercury. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003. xiv + 264 pp. 8 plates. 6 tables. Bibliography. £40.00. Urban History, 32(1), 178-179.
- Creating a searchable web of interlinked sources on eighteenth century London. Program, 39(4), 297-311.
- Narratives of crime in the "long eighteenth century". J BRIT STUD, 43(2), 272-277.
- View this article in WRRO The taming of the duel: Masculinity, honour and ritual violence in London, 1660-1800. HIST J, 45(3), 525-545.
- J. M. Beattie, Policing and punishment in London, 1660–1750: urban crime and the limits of terror. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.) Pages xx+491. £48.00.. Continuity and Change, 17(2), 281-299.
- Moral economy and popular protest: Crowds, conflict and authority. J HIST GEOGR, 28(1), 132-133.
- Crime and mentalities in early modern England.. CONTINUITY CHANGE, 16, 466-468.
- Male honour and the decline of public violence in eighteenth-century London. Social History, 26(2), 190-208.
- The decline of public insult in London 1660-1800. PAST PRESENT(169), 97-131.
- Women's worlds in seventeenth-century England: a sourcebook. ECON HIST REV, 53(4), 821-822.
- Elaine Forman Crane, Ebb Tide in New England: Women, Seaports, and Social Change, 1630–1800. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998. x + 333pp. Bibliography. £47.00 hbk; £16.95 pbk.. Urban History, 27(1), 136-160.
- Gender, Language, and Urban Social Relations in Europe, 1540-1850. Journal of Urban History, 25(4), 570-582.
- Margaret R. Hunt, The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender and the Family in England, 1680–1780. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. xiii + 343pp. Bibliography. £38.00.. Urban History, 25(3), 389-390.
- SHORTER NOTICES. The English Historical Review, CXIII(453), 1001-1002.
- Christophe Campos (ed.), ‘London and Paris from the beginnings to the year 2,000’, Franco-British Studies [special issue], nos 17 and 18 (1994). Journal of the British Institute in Paris. 110 pp. 17 illustrations. £20.00; 200 F.fr.. Urban History, 23(3), 386-387.
- Brian Henry, Dublin Hanged. Crime, Law Enforcement, and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1994. 222pp. 4 tables. 2 illustrations. Bibliography. £19.95.. Urban History, 22(3), 407-409.
- Stilling the Grumbling Hive: The Response to Social and Economic Problems, 1689-1750.. The Economic History Review, 47(1), 194-194.
- MARRIED WOMENS SEPARATE PROPERTY IN ENGLAND, 1660-1833 - STAVES,S. SCRIBLERIAN KIT-CATS, 26(2), 237-238.
- DRUNKS, WHORES AND IDLE APPRENTICES - CRIMINAL BIOGRAPHIES OF THE 18TH-CENTURY - RAWLINGS,P. SOC HIST, 18(3), 396-399.
- David Dean (ed.), St Albans Quarter Sessions Rolls 1784–1820. Hertfordshire Record Society: Hertfordshire Record Publications, Volume 7, 1991. xx + 197pp. 2 illustrations. £15.95.. Urban History, 20(1), 155-156.
- Short notices. Social History, 16(3), 401-408.
- THE CRIME-WAVE REVISITED - CRIME, LAW-ENFORCEMENT AND PUNISHMENT IN BRITAIN, 1650-1900. HIST J, 34(3), 763-768.
- The London “Mob” in the Early Eighteenth Century. Journal of British Studies, 26(3), 273-304.
- View this article in WRRO ‘Sympathy for the Criminal: The Criminal Celebrity’ in Eighteenth-Century London’. Crime History and Societies, 2020(1).
- View this article in WRRO Fear of Crime in Eighteenth-Century London In champion M & lynch A (Ed.), Understanding Emotions in Early Europe (pp. 233-249). Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols.
- View this article in WRRO Representing the adversary criminal trial: Lawyers in the Old Bailey proceedings, 1770-1800, Crime, Courtrooms and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1700-1850 (pp. 71-92).
- Representing the adversary criminal trial: Lawyers in the old Bailey Proceedings, 1770-1800, Crime, Courtrooms and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1700-1850 (pp. 71-91).
- Print Culture and the Creation of Public Knowledge about Crime in Eighteenth-Century London In Knepper P, Doak J & Shapland J (Ed.) (pp. 1-21). Taylor and Francis
- Penal Practice and Culture, 1500–1900 Palgrave Macmillan UK
- The Eighteenth-Century Town Routledge
- Informal Justice in England and Wales, 1760–1914, by Stephen Banks. The English Historical Review, 131(548), 214-215.
- The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age. LONDON JOURNAL, 39(2), 171-173.
- The struggle for the breeches: Gender and the making of the British working class.. J URBAN HIST, 25(4), 570-582.
- Venice and Amsterdam: A study of seventeenth-century elites.. J URBAN HIST, 25(4), 570-582.
- Charity and power in early modern Italy: Benefactors and their motives in Turin, 1541-1789.. J URBAN HIST, 25(4), 570-582.
- The sense of the people: Politics, culture and imperialism in England, 1715-1785.. J URBAN HIST, 25(4), 570-582.
- Fragile lives: Violence, power and solidarity in eighteenth-century Paris. J URBAN HIST, 25(4), 570-582.
- 'Criminal Lives, 1780-1925: Punishing Old Bailey Convicts'. London Metropolitan Archives, London, UK.
- London Lives, 1690-1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis.
- The Digital Panopticon: Tracing London Convicts in Britain & Australia, 1780-1925.
- http://hridigital.shef.ac.uk/hrionline London Lives 1690 to 1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis. Retrieved from
- Research group
I am no longer taking new PhD students.
- Current Students
- Completed Students
- Eleanor Bland - The Identification of Criminal Suspects by Policing Agents in London, 1780-1850.
- Lucy Huggins - Crime and Economies of Makeshift: Experiences of Poverty in the Old Bailey, 1750-1799.
- Kate Gibson - Experiences of Illegitimacy in England, 1660-1834.
- Helen Churcher - Understandings of Habitual Criminality in England from 1770 to 1870.
- Nigel Cavanagh (Second supervisor) - Industrialising Communities: A Case Study of Elsecar Circa 1750-1850.
- Kate Davison (Second supervisor) - Ned Ward and a Social History of Humour in Early Eighteenth-Century England.
- Anna Jenkin - Perceptions of the Murderess in London and Paris: 1674-1789.
- Julie Banham - Politeness in Eighteenth-Century Sheffield: Practices, Accoutrements and Spaces for Sociability.
- Richard Ward - Print Culture and Responses to Crime in Mid Eighteenth-Century London.
- Teaching interests
I am no longer engaged in teaching.
- Professional activities
- ESRC Peer Review College - Member
- London Journal - Chair, Editorial Board
- Royal Historical Society - Fellow
- White Rose University Press - Editorial Board Member
Between 2004 and 2008 I was Head of the History Department, and between 2014 and 2018 I was Faculty Director of Research and Innovation (Arts and Humanities).