Strangled himself (being distracted): Messy Data and Suicides in the Bills of Mortality

**Content Warning** This post contains subject matter that some may find sensitive or disturbing, be advised. If uncomfortable with this topic, you may support Death By Numbers in other posts. This blog post will be a bit different than a few of our previous posts. Now that we have discussed our project workflow, we are going to begin to discuss the content of the Bills themselves. One thing that we immediately noticed on beginning this project is that suicides are reported on the Bills in a variety of ways that lead to more questions than answers regarding the weekly suicide rate in London. The variety of reports had a lot to do with the religious and legal views on suicide in this era.  When looking at suicide rates, Sleepless Souls by Michael MacDonald and Terence R. Murphy state in Table 7.1 Sex Ratio of Selected […]

7 Problems to Expect when You’re Transcribing Historical Data and How to Avoid Them

So you want to start transcribing data from historical documents? The task seems easy! However, there are quite a few issues that can pop up which can create problems for other parts of the project. Below are some of the expected errors our transcribers on Death By Numbers frequently run into and some tips on how to handle them.  The job may sound intimidating with all the potential pitfalls, but we have suggested solutions from all the tips and tricks our team has picked up over the past few months. Problem Number 1: Forgetting about the Data Solution: Be Familiar with Your Data Before getting too far ahead of yourself, familiarize yourself with your transcription project.  Our project already has several blog posts on the London Bills of Mortality to assist new transcribers like the Bills 101.  If you don’t know what you’re transcribing, you […]

Confusion of Calendars

by Emily Meyers and Jessica Otis One of the first things a Bill of Mortality tells the reader is the date. The bill (partially) pictured below covers mortality data for the city of London, in the 3rd week of the current bills’ year, which ran from the 31st of December to the 7th of January in the year 1700 AD (from the Latin, Anno Domini, which was often translated into English as the Year of the Lord). Bill excerpted from Paul Laxton, ed. The London Bills of Mortality, 1701-1829 For people living in early modern London, this was a straightforward and easily understood statement of the date. For the twenty-first century scholar, this is guaranteed to cause data problems if taken at face value and filtered through modern assumptions about time. First, the week of December 31st to January 7th was numbered as the third […]