Trac­ingVil­lains andTheirVic­tims

Your Family History - - Reviews -

Au­thor: Jonathan Oates Pub­lisher: Pen & Sword w. ISBN: 9781473892569 Price: £14.99 (PB)

Jonathan Oates is an ar­chiv­ist and lo­cal his­tory li­brar­ian, but his Pen & Sword books show two clear ar­eas of in­ter­est – Ja­cobean his­tory and early 20th cen­tury true crime.

His in­ter­est in the lat­ter is ob­vi­ous in the ma­jor­ity of case stud­ies he uses in Trac­ing Vil­lains and their Vic­tims. It would, how­ever, have been good to have more case stud­ies from a wider range of eras, to demon­strate the prob­lems and lim­i­ta­tions of sources over the cen­turies, and how these have changed.

Oates writes well, and has ob­vi­ously done a good amount of re­search. There is, per­haps, not enough recog­ni­tion ei­ther of change over time or of re­gional dif­fer­ences, though. The as­sump­tion here seems to be that read­ers will be re­search­ing late 19th/early 20th cen­tury tri­als – but what of ear­lier eras?

Un­for­tu­nately, Oates notes that he wasn’t brought up with ‘the in­ter­net as a key re­search tool’ and there­fore ‘re­mains scep­ti­cal of its use as a pri­mary re­search mech­a­nism’. He is sur­pris­ingly neg­a­tive about the Bri­tish News­pa­per Ar­chive, and fails to recog­nise the use­ful­ness of such sites as Old Bai­ley Pro­ceed­ings On­line, and the new Dig­i­tal Panopticon (see page 74 of this is­sue).

In sum­mary, then, this is a book with some help­ful back­ground and ideas for re­search, writ­ten gen­er­ally well, but let down slightly by the au­thor’s own in­ter­ests and be­liefs. How­ever, for an in­di­vid­ual re­search­ing crime in their fam­ily his­tory for the first time, they will find plenty of sug­ges­tions for pri­mary re­search here, and in­for­ma­tion on the courts and crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem that they might like to fol­low up else­where.

Read it for: A flawed but use­ful guide for fam­ily his­to­ri­ans new to re­search­ing crim­i­nal fore­bears or the vic­tims of crimes

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