The University of Sheffield
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Tattoos in the Digital Panopticon Database, 1793-1925

posted on 2020-12-18, 10:18 authored by Jamie McLaughlinJamie McLaughlin

This dataset contains information about tattoos on 58,002 criminal convicts from records created between 1793 and 1925. These datasets were created by extracting data from datasets in the Digital Panopticon (, a compilation of 50 datasets containing records pertaining to men and women convicted of crimes at the Old Bailey court in London in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The eight datasets from which tattoos data have been extracted include substantial physical descriptions of the convicts’ bodies, including evidence of tattoos. Other information about the convicts was extracted from the ‘life archives’ of these convicts, which contain evidence from all the records pertaining to that convict in the Digital Panopticon.

The information given includes details of the names and demographic details (age, gender, occupation, religion) of the convicts, their tattoos (descriptions, subjects, body location), and other physical marks on their bodies (such as scars and boils). For further details, see below.

There are two tables in the dataset:

  • convict_descriptions: each row consists of the physical description of one convict (241,207 rows). Many convicts have separate entries from records created at different times.

  • convict_description_segments: each row consists of a ‘segment’ of a physical description, which describes the marks on a specific part of a body, for example the right arm (565,280 rows).


British Academy

Arts and Humanities Research Council



  • There is no personal data or any that requires ethical approval


  • The data complies with the institution and funders' policies on access and sharing

Sharing and access restrictions

  • The data can be shared openly

Data description

  • The file formats are open or commonly used

Methodology, headings and units

  • There is a readme.txt file describing the methodology, headings and units

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