In today’s society you can find pretty much anything you want on the internet, ranging from the obscure to that of education value, the internet is also easy to use for most and also easily accessible. You can’t go somewhere today without finding an internet cafi?? or somewhere with wireless connections, the internet is the tool for any modern thinking person, but is it useful?
There are many reasons as to why internet sources could help anyone, especially a historian researching in a specific area of time or genre, in the case of studying crimes there are now a variety of internet resources that a historian could easily use to be able to overcome the problems of having to use printed materials.
One main reason would be because the sources on the internet are far more easy to access then say rare books or manuscripts of cases that they were looking at, this is due to the fact that most of the printed materials that could be used, may not be accessable to the public or the originals could have been lost to name a few examples, like in the Old Bailey database site.
Also everything is all in one place, which means that you wouldn’t have to go from library to library or even country to country to get the information you would need, it’s all contained together and all you need to do is go on one of the many sites to find what you were looking for. For example while using the Old Bailey database I found it relatively simple to find specific cases with many different offences, if I wanted to find out this without using the internet I would have to go all the way in to London to only find that they were probably not going to let me look at the original copies.
I might also not even understand them as they’re written in English different to our own modern style. This is another advantage of the internet, it doesn’t matter what language you speak because most websites, especially educational websites can be viewed in many languages or are easily translated by your computer when you go to view the sources, so the internet is diverse as well as accessible.
For example if as a crime historian I wanted to read some old court cases from France, Then instead of having to learn a completely different language to my own I could just get my computer to translate the web page or just click one button so the site does it for me, This means that because a lot of sources are now stored on the internet we now have even more resources available to us then perhaps we would have before the internet was invented.
Using purely printed materials has many downfalls as I’ve mentioned above, such as they could be damaged, in another language or merely not accessible to someone of the public, There is also an issue of cost when it comes to using printed materials, the internet is more or less free to view whatever materials you would want to, many of which is copies of the printed material you may wish to gain access to, however if you were going to use just printed material or if the internet didn’t exist then you might have to pay money for books on crime when you might only need one chapter out of it, whereas if you use the sources on the internet then you can pick and choose what parts you would want to use and discard the others.
For example in the case I studied off the Old Bailey website I wanted to look at cases involving homosexuality, I didn’t want all of them I only wanted to study one, but if I was using printed material then I would have to read through all the cases from those periods to be able to find exactly what I was looking for and having to read about cases that weren’t even to do with my issue, instead of a five second search which showed me exactly what I wanted to find, so using the internet of printed materials would also save a lot of time. The internet can also help you with sources that you wouldn’t be able to find in printed materials as well as link you to other sites and resources that are similar to theirs, for example when I studied the case of Gabriel Lawrence I could link to other sites to find out where else he was mentioned and also how many other crimes he had committed or when he was included as a witness for example.
I could also see exactly where his crime had taken place as The Old Bailey website provided me with maps to show where exactly it had happened and also I could easily make a bar graph to show how many more incidents of the same nature had occurred within a certain period and also what they verdict of those cases where. If I was just using printed materials I would never be able to gain that much information from just one source and some of the information that the internet provides might not be available, for example I don’t think there are a great deal of printed sources which show graphs and charts of criminal activity over a period of time. Sites like The Old Bailey database are also just as accurate and reliable sources for information as printed material as it comes from the original sources just in a more accessible and informative place.
In conclusion although printed materials are a good source for historians studying crime, such as old criminal records or records of court cases, they are still not as handy as using the internet, this is because the internet is far more accessible then any printed materials due to the fact that you either have to find the printed materials you want, pay for them or can’t access them at all. Crime historians can easily search the internet for specific crimes that they’re researching or specific people or cases such as in the Old Bailey Database and the results will usually come up with more then one thing for what they’re looking for therefore giving them a wider variety of information and therefore more knowledge.
Using the internet is also less problematic then using just printed materials because you have all your sources in front of you and more instead of having to go from printed source to another, it also gives you access to similar articles and evidence from other websites, such as the OBD shows. Although we managed fine without the internet before it was invented it is a huge benefit to any historian including those studying a history of crime because it will last a lot longer then any printed materials will and because everything you would want to know can be reached and is easier to use then any of the printed materials that one would wish to use to gain information, especially for those studying crime where most records are private and most the time you are unable to view the original sources.
Bibliography: The Old Bailey Database (www.oldbaileyonline.org).