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As an author, finding inspiration is a big deal! Ideas don’t always spring to mind randomly. There are many things, such as a snippet of an overheard conversation, a local news story, or an old family tale which can provide a starting point for a story. For my historical novels, I love reading accounts of real life crimes and court trials, and one of the best sources I have found is The Old Bailey Online website.

The Old Bailey Online gives anyone access to 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court between 1674 and 1913. That’s a lot of information! The proceedings vary in length from 8 words to over 150,000, and include crimes from vagabonding to murder and everything in between.

After discovering the Staunton case of murder in another book, I researched the trial further by using the Old Bailey Online website (click here to see the trial notes). Although anyone who reads the second novel in my Convenient Women Collection and the real-life trial would find little similarity between the two, this horrific account of murder proved inspiration for my novel, The Promise Keeper. It is a long report, with many witnesses and statements, but the detail is fantastic. As well as providing intricacies about the crime and the detection of it, there is, of course, much information about everyday life during that period. 

For historical crime writers, the website offers a plethora of inspiration. Use the Search tool for advanced searches where you can sort trials by offences, names, verdicts, periods of time, and specific keywords. It is a vast website but there are short YouTube tutorials to help you navigate its pages and show you how to read and interpret the proceedings, and a Getting Started page to help you too. The glossary section explains unfamiliar judicial and historical terms, and be sure to check out the FAQ page for even more detailed guides and information. You might even find an ancestor of yours in there, whose story is just waiting to be told! 

About the author

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods is an author who loves to write historical mysteries and thrillers. 

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