Title Encoding crime and punishment: A digital collection of historic broadsheets

Encoded by   Vanessa Hannesschläger

Encoded by   Daniel Schopper


The Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License applies to this text.


With this contribution, the authors would like to take the audience on a local time travel: The paper introduces a collection of 180 printed single broadsheets that report on capital punishment in 18th century Vienna between 1700 and 1797. These so-called "death sentences" have hardly ever been the object of investigation so far.

Announcing the lives and crimes of the malefactors, the broadsheets show different degrees of detail. The working group aims at covering personal data as a crucial part of the text genre: Malefactors are not only mentioned with their names and age but also with biographical information such as family background, religious denomination or profession. Most importantly, the leaflets contain descriptions of the offences in question, e.g. theft, incest, infanticide amongst others.

A granular metadata scheme based on the namesdates module will allow for detailed analysis and enable researchers to answer questions like: What was the average age of malefactors? Is there a correlation between the delinquents’ social status and their delicts? Can we observe patterns of male and female criminality?

Already during its preparation, the annotated data provides insight into the exemplary life stories of 18th century criminals in Vienna. By applying this scheme to the whole corpus, the project group hopes to enhance its knowledge on historic executions, thus laying empirical, well-grounded foundations for further research – also with the prospect of facilitating the comparability with data from other European capital cities at that time.


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