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Response to Review of London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690–1800

First, Dr Shore starts by giving us too much credit for the digital projects we have worked on, starting with the Old Bailey Proceedings Online and including the London Lives website which provides the core primary source material for this book. As the book’s dedication and acknowledgements indicate, these projects were created by large teams of people which we have had the good fortune to work with over the past 15 years, including Dr Sharon Howard, who has managed the underlying web projects since 2005, and Jamie McLaughlin who has served as principal programmer throughout. We would also like to note that 18thConnect was and is directed by Laura Mandell, and we have played no substantive role in it.

Second, towards the end of the review Dr Shore perceptively notes that in parts of the book its main protagonists, paupers and criminals, ‘could have been more vocal’ and are sometimes ‘overshadowed’ by ‘the iniquities of the system’. She speculates whether this might be the result of ‘reading the hardcopy version of this book rather than the online one, as the authors originally intended’. As she notes, the book is intended to be read in its e-book version, which allows the reader to click through directly from quotations from the primary sources to online editions of those sources, primarily on the London Lives website. Doing so does allow the reader to read the longer and often richly detailed pauper and criminal narratives recorded in the Old Bailey Proceedings, pauper letters, the Ordinary’s Accounts, depositions, petitions, settlement and bastardy examinations, and other sources. While these records were for the most part created and assembled by the parish and judicial authorities under conditions of duress for their subjects, they can be productively read against the grain to enable plebeian voices to be heard.

We could, of course, have written a different book, in which we told more in-depth stories of plebeian lives but, despite a generous word limit, we simply did not have space to do that and provide the narrative which Dr Shore nicely summarises in her review. The London Lives website includes sets of documents relating to over three thousand lives and is freely available to researchers, but for this book we decided it was more important to summarise this evidence and tell the story of how plebeian Londoners contributed to shaping a century of significant changes in poor relief and criminal justice.

To access both the story and the underlying evidence, we strongly encourage readers to seek out one of the book’s e-book editions, where readers can not only directly access documents containing the voices of the poor, but also link directly to online editions of the secondary sources we cite, including journal articles, books and websites, and view (and download) the spreadsheets which contain the evidence for our tables and graphs. We are deeply disappointed that the publisher has failed to promote the e-book and make it available to reviewers, but the online edition is available and is the form in which the book is intended to be read.