Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio


Historians struggle to decipher letters and diaries - but what about those who left no record? The poor, those who couldn't write? There is one fantastic source, and it is now online: the Old Bailey Archives.

Through court cases, we can hear the voices of the 18th century - thanks to the speedy court shorthand writers, everyone's speech is recorded, from the posh to the poor. It's the nearest thing we have to a tape recording of the past.

Professor Amanda Vickery presents dramatised extracts from gripping court cases and discusses with fellow historians what they reveal about 18th century society and culture.

In this programme, the voices of children. Even children as young as seven appeared in court in the 18th century, as witnesses, victims - and as criminals. Amanda Vickery presents three cases which capture the voices of children, and open up the reality of their lives.

One reveals the network of relationships in the workhouse, and the cruelty and kindness which coexisted there. The second exposes the vulnerability of teenagers working as apprentices. And the third features a little girl who is sentenced to death - but who then escapes the gallows and makes a long and prosperous life for herself.

With historians Tim Hitchcock, Ruth Richardson and Zoe Laidlaw. Recorded on location in The Foundling Museum.

Release date:

45 minutes

Last on

Thu 29 Jul 2010 21:30