ARCHIVES: AUTUMN 2018 ISSUE: TOC AND ABSTRACTS

CONTENTS

Michael Gervers, Gelila Tilahun, Shima Koshraftar, Roderick A. Mitchell and Ariella Elema, The dating of medieval charters

Amanda Bevan and Randolph Cock, High Court of Admiralty prize papers, 1652-1815: Challenges in improving access to older records

Nicholas Baldwin, Archives of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street

Ruth Paley, William Blackstone, Granville Sharp and the case of Jonathan Strong

ABSTRACTS

The dating of medieval charters

By Michael Gervers, Gelila Tilahun, Shima Koshraftar, Roderick A. Mitchell and Ariella Elema

Approximately 95% of all English charters from the Conquest in 1066 to the beginning of the reign of Edward II in 1307 were issued without dates. One of the major objectives of the DEEDS Project (DEEDS, an acronym for Documents of Early England Data Set) at the University of Toronto has been to estimate dates of these undated documents through automation. This paper describes a World Wide Web user-interface toolkit to date the undated English charter, as well as the underlying two computationally intensive dating methodologies – the Maximum Prevalence and a distance based method. The Maximum Prevalence method, the more accurate of the two, relies on analyzing changes in the pattern of word and phrase usage as derived from a carefully selected collection containing thousands of dated documents electronically transcribed and stored in the DEEDS corpus. Over and above the dating of documents, the toolkit, which has features to visualize this pattern of change, is useful to historians, archivists and linguists alike. The distance-based method relies on computing the weighted sums of the dates of the documents in the DEEDS collection. The weights are determined on the basis of similarity between an undated document and the dated collection—the higher the similarity, the higher the weight; the reverse holds when the similarity is low. The performance of each of the dating methods is presented on a test set, where the average absolute errors for the Maximum Prevalence and the distance-based methods are found to be 7.6 and 12.5 years, respectively. A ‘leave-one-out’ cross-validation experiment performed on the more than 12,000 documents in the test set confirms the accuracy of the methodology. The strengths and weaknesses of each of the dating methods are discussed. In addition, a full description of the DEEDS corpus from England and continental Europe is provided, including the kinds of metadata that have been compiled from it.

High Court of Admiralty prize papers, 1652-1815: Challenges in improving access to older records

By Amanda Bevan and Randolph Cock

The prize papers of the high court of admiralty present multiple opportunities and challenges to researchers and archivists at the National Archives (TNA), where they have been held, almost unused, since the late 1850s. Increasing international academic interest in, and digitisation proposals for, this poorly-catalogued archive has led to the investment of scarce staff time by TNA. This is needed as part of the move from storing the papers according to the archival practices current in the 1650s-1850s, to delivering a collection ready for research and digitisation. The process presents a series of complex challenges which are explored here. After introducing a new project to digitise and describe all the prize papers, the paper covers the earlier archival and research responses to the collection; the use of the papers by the court; the development of a sorting practice for disarranged papers: and the reuniting of strays. The conclusion looks at the resource difficulties for funding this kind of work.

Archives of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street

By Nicholas Baldwin

The Hospital for Sick Children was founded at Great Ormond Street in 1852 as the first dedicated hospital for children with in-patient facilities in Britain. Although a number of other children’s hospitals subsequently opened in London and other major cities, Great Ormond Street maintained its reputation both nationally and internationally.This is reflected in its archive, which has unusually comprehensive content both clinical and administrative. Its patient casenotes and supporting series of patient records provide comprehensive evidence from the formative decades in the emergence of modern Paediatrics, and also wider demographic and sociological evidence of the communities from which its patients came. The archive includes administrative records of all the institution’s major committees, with supporting correspondence. There are registers of the clinical and nursing staffs, and extensive ‘subject files’ on the development of individual departments and clinical activities. There is an accompanying photographic archive of some 3000 images, and a discrete series of early clinical glass plate negatives. There are also archive series relating to the Hospital’s former ‘Country Branch’, initially at Cromwell House, Highgate(1869-1914) and then at Tadworth Court, Surrey (1927-83).

NOTES AND DOCUMENTS

William Blackstone, Granville Sharp and the case of Jonathan Strong

By Ruth Paley

The newly discovered brief for the defence provides additional detail in the case that began Granville Sharp’s crusade against slavery.