Digital Crime Histories and Developing a Public Pedagogy of Criminal Justice


Crime history was a pioneer in the digital arena, democratising access to the past by engaging large public and academic audiences with primary datasets online. This article traces the evolution of digital crime history from 2003 to 2021 in the United Kingdom and Australia. It charts a shift from catering to a passive audience towards projects that actively engage public audiences through crowdsourced transcriptions, interactive data visualisations and other aural, visual and multimedia forms. It has never been easier to access these nations’ criminal pasts online, but we must pause to reflect on what the aims of public engagement are. What kinds of digital public pedagogy do we want to build, and how can they be critical, reflective and widely representative? We conclude by considering the challenges to this endeavour, including what roles academics and commercial gatekeepers might play, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uneven geographies of digitisation within the Southern Hemisphere.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2023-03-01
Pages:56 to 68
Section:Special Issue: Historical Criminology
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How to Cite
Piper, A. and Roscoe, K. (2023) “Digital Crime Histories and Developing a Public Pedagogy of Criminal Justice”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 12(1), pp. 56-68. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.2744.

Author Biographies

University of Technology Sydney

Dr Alana Piper is Lecturer at the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology Sydney. A leading historian on the history of crime and criminal justice in Australia, she is currently an investigator on the ARC Discovery project 'Sex and the Australian Military, 1914-2020' (2021-2023). Her other ongoing research project, Criminal Characters, uses digital history and citizen science to chart the lives and criminal careers of Australian offenders across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She was previously a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Griffith University on the Prosecution Project.

University of Liverpool
 United Kingdom

Dr Katherine Roscoe is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Liverpool. She is a historical criminologist with research interests centred on global mobilities, unfree labour and racial inqualities, with a particular focus on nineteenth-century crime and punishment. She led an ESRC project to create a digital resource and database of 2500 prisoners incarcerated on Cockatoo Island Prison. She recently led a Leverhulme Trust project which used digital sources to chart the role of convict labour in facilitating global mobilities through their unfree labour on dockyards.