Bob Shoemaker Profile PictureProfessor Robert Shoemaker

M.A., Ph.D. (Stanford) FRHistS

Professor of Eighteenth-Century British History

17th-19th c. British Social and Cultural History; Crime and Punishment; Gender; London; Digital and Public History

+44 (0)114 22 22584 | Jessop West room 1.08

Semester One 2019-20 Office Hours: By Appointment



Robert Shoemaker is Professor of Eighteenth-Century British history. His 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. His 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 him 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 his interests on gender and crime, he 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.

He is 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, he 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 he 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 their work on the Old Bailey and London Lives projects.

Since then he has 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.

He is currently partly retired and working part-time, with a focus on research and postgraduate research supervision. He is no longer taking new PhD students. For his current projects, see under the 'research' tab.

Professional Roles

ESRC Peer Review College - Member

London Journal - Chair, Editorial Board

Royal Historical Society - Fellow

White Rose University Press - Editorial Board Member



Bob Shoemaker's 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, he has examined how the explosion of print culture shaped public attitudes towards crime. Results of this work can be seen in his 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, and a Past and Present article on 'Worrying about Crime: Experience, moral panics and public opinion in London, 1660-1800'. Future publications include an article about the phenomenon of the criminal celebrity.

He is currently working on two digital projects. He is 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. He is overseeing the creation and analysis of a new database of victims of crime at the Old Bailey derived from the Old Bailey Proceedings, and is researching the increasing role of legal counsel and the police in managing prosecutions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

He is 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.

Research Supervision

Current students:

  • Roger Baxter - Crime, Innovation and Mobility: Transport Migration and Policing in England, 1750-1950.
  • Aoife O'Connor - An Ancestor in Crime: Digitisation and the Discovery of Family Deviance.
  • Kristine Tomlinson - Extralegal, Religious, and Legal Discipline in Harvard, Massachusetts from 1772 to 1812.
  • Laura Alston - Women’s Negative Emotions and Micro-Emotional Communities 1700-1830: Examining Experiential Possibilities through Emotional Linguistics.
  • Nicola Walker - Industrialising Communities in South Yorkshire, 1650-1850: A Case Study of Cannon Hall.

All current students by supervisor

Completed students include:

  • 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.

PhD study in History


Full list of Publications


London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

London Lives Cover(with Tim Hitchcock)

London Lives is a fascinating new study which exposes, for the first time, the lesser-known experiences of eighteenth-century thieves, paupers, prostitutes and highwaymen. It charts the experiences of hundreds of thousands of Londoners who found themselves submerged in poverty or prosecuted for crime, and surveys their responses to illustrate the extent to which plebeian Londoners influenced the pace and direction of social policy. Calling upon a new body of evidence, the book illuminates the lives of prison escapees, expert manipulators of the poor relief system, celebrity highwaymen, lone mothers and vagrants, revealing how they each played the system to the best of their ability in order to survive in their various circumstances of misfortune. In their acts of desperation, the authors argue that the poor and criminal exercised a profound and effective form of agency that changed the system itself, and shaped the evolution of the modern state.

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Tales from the Hanging Court (Arnold, 2006, pbk 2007)

Tales from the Hanging Court CoverA collection of fascinating Old Bailey trials which illustrate the history of crime and criminal justice and the colourful, vibrant and sometimes scandalous world of eighteenth-century London.

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The London Mob: Violence and Disorder in Eighteenth-Century England, (Hambledon and London, 2004)

The London Mob CoverBy 1700 London was the largest city in the world, with over 500,000 inhabitants. Very weakly policed, its streets saw regular outbreaks of rioting by a mob easily stirred by economic grievances, politics or religion. If the mob vented its anger more often on property than people, eighteenth-century Londoners frequently came to blows over personal disputes in a society where men and women were quick to defend their honour. Slanging matches easily turned to fisticuffs and slights on honour were avenged in duels. In this world, where the detection and prosecution of crime was the part of the business of the citizen, punishment, whether by the pillory, whipping at a cart's tail or hanging at Tyburn, was public and endorsed by crowds. The Mob draws a fascinating portrait of the public life of the modern world's first great city.

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Gender in English Society, 1650-1850: The Emergence of Separate Spheres?, (Longman, 1998)

Gender in English Society CoverA lively social history of the roles of men and women - from workplace to household, from parish church to alehouse, from market square to marriage bed. Robert Shoemaker investigates such varied topics as crime, leisure, the theatre, religious observance, notions of morality and even changing patterns of sexual activity itself.

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Prosecution and Punishment: Petty Crime and the Law in London and Rural Middlesex, c.1660-1725, (Cambridge University Press, 1991)

Prosecution and punishment coverThe law was one of the most potent sources of authority and stability in early modern England. Historians, however, have argued over whether the discretion and flexibility embodied in the judicial system was used as a method of social control, and by focusing their attention on felonies and on the action of the protagonists in judicial decisions they have tended to ignore rich sources of information concerning attitudes towards and experiences of the law. Misdemeanour prosecutions affected many more people (and a broader social variety of participants) than felony prosecutions, and in their choice of methods of prosecution both victims and Justices of the Peace exercised considerably greater flexibility in responding to petty crimes than they did with felonies. This book examines the day-to-day operation of the criminal justice system in Middlesex from the point of view of plaintiffs and defendants, and offers an assessment of the social significance of the law in pre-industrial England.

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Web Resources

(with Barry Godfrey, Tim Hitchcock, Hamish Maxwell-Stewart and Deborah Oxley), The Digital Panopticon: Tracing London Convicts in Britain & Australia, 1780-1925 (2017)

(with Tim Hitchcock and Jane Winters), Connected Histories, (2011)

(with Matthew Davies and Tim Hitchcock), Locating London's Past, (2010)

(with Tim Hitchcock), London Lives, 1690-1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis, (2010)

(with Tim Hitchcock and Clive Emsley), The Old Bailey Proceedings Online, 1674-1913, (2003-2008)

Book Chapters

'Fear of Crime in Eighteenth-Century London', in Understanding Emotions in Early Europe, ed. Michael Champion and Andrew Lynch (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), pp. 233-249.

'Representing the Adversary Criminal Trial: Lawyers in the Old Bailey Proceedings, 1770-1800', in David Lemmings, ed., Courtrooms and the Public Sphere in Britain, 1700-1850 (Ashgate, 2012), pp. 71-91

'Print Culture and the Creation of Public Knowledge about Crime in Eighteenth-Century London', in Crime Prevention, Surveillance and Restorative Justice: Effects of Social Technologies, edited by Paul Knepper, Jonathan Doak and Joanna Shapland (2009)

Journal Articles

'Worrying about Crime: Experience, moral panics and public opinion in London, 1660-1800', Past and Present 234/1 (2017), pp. 71-100; doi: 10.1093/pastj/gtw046

(with Richard Ward) 'Understanding the Criminal: Record-Keeping, Statistics and the Early History of Criminology in England', British Journal of Criminology 57:6 (2017), 1442-1461; doi: 10.1093/bjc/azw071

'Print and the Female Voice: Representations of Women's Crime in London, 1690-1735', Gender and History 22: 1 (2010), pp. 75-91.

The Old Bailey Proceedings and the Representation of Crime and Criminal Justice in Eighteenth-Century London', Journal of British Studies 47 (2008), pp. 559-580.

'The Street Robber and the Gentleman Highwayman: Changing Representations and Perceptions of Robbery in London, 1690-1800', Cultural and Social History 3 (2006), pp. 381-405.

'The Taming of the Duel: Masculinity, Honour and Ritual Violence in London, 1660-1800', Historical Journal, (2002)

'Male Honour and the Decline of Public Violence in Eighteenth-Century London', Social History, (2001)

'The Decline of Public Insult in London, 1660-1800', Past and Present, (2000)


Professor Shoemaker is no longer engaged in teaching.

Public Engagement

Public Engagement

To follow

In The Media

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Administrative Duties

Current Administrative Duties


Previous Administrative Duties

Between 2004 and 2008 he was Head of the History Department, and between 2014 and 2018 he was Faculty Director of Research and Innovation (Arts and Humanities).