Archive for April, 2012

Progress update, 21 to 27 April 2012

By Tim Causer, on 27 April 2012

Welcome to the progress update for the period 21 to 27 April 2012, during which further excellent progress has been made.

3,333 manuscripts have now be worked on, which is an increase of 31 on last week’s total. Of these, 3,099 (93%) are complete and locked. We continue to close in on our 3,500th transcribed manuscript!

The more detailed state of progress is as follows:

  • Box 2: 330 manuscripts transcribed of 532 (62%)
  • Box 27: 302 of 350 (86%)
  • Box 35: 231 of 439 (52%)
  • Box 50: 54 of 92 (58%)
  • Box 51: 55 of 940 (5%)
  • Box 62: 51 of 565 (9%)
  • Box 70: 168 of 250 (48%)
  • Box 71: 560 of 665 (84%)
  • Box 72: 415 of 664 (62%)
  • Box 73: 126 of 156 (80%)
  • Box 79: 77 of 199 (38%)
  • Box 95: 45 of 147 (30%)
  • Box 96: 521 of 539 (96%)
  • Box 97: 24 of 288 (8%)
  • Box 100: 75 of 429 (17%)
  • Box 115: 245 of 307 (79%)
  • Box 116: 16 of 218 (1%)
  • Box 139: 38 of 38 (100%)
  • Overall: 48% of the 6,873 manuscripts uploaded to the website have been transcribed thus far.

Boxes 72 and 116 – the recently uploaded material on convict transportation and early New South Wales – were the most popular during the last seven days. Regarding this latter material, we are grateful to volunteer Lea Stern, who has transcribed a manuscript in which Bentham appears to suggest that the unconstitutional ‘tyranny’ in early New South Wales was such, that some form of insurrection against the colonial government might be justified. This does not appear to have been published in A Plea for the Constitution, which was rather incendiary as it stands, so this is an excellent find.

Thanks too to all those who took the time to vote for Transcribe Bentham in the EngageU public engagement awards; alas, we were not successful, but the awards have showcased some excellent public engagement work going on at universities across Europe. Our warmest congratulations to the winners, and you can view all of the competition entries here.

As ever, many thanks to all those who have given their time during the last week to transcribe material, and contribute to Transcribe Bentham’s ongoing success. We are hugely grateful.

New material – Panopticon versus New South Wales

By Tim Causer, on 20 April 2012

As mentioned in today’s progress update, 864 images-worth of material from Box 116 has been uploaded to the website for transcribing. This contains some very important material, mainly written around 1802, which relates to his views on the then recently-founded convict colony of New South Wales. Essentially, Bentham’s purpose was to condemn the colony, as transportation had emerged as the main alternative to the construction of penitentiaries, and specifically the Panopticon.

One of the works on which these manuscripts are based, Panopticon versus New South Wales, is a passionate assault on the supposed ‘failures’ of colony: that the society was immoral; that transported convicts were not reformed; that transportation was unjust and borderline illegal; and that the convict system was inefficient and hugely expensive. Set against this was a picture of Bentham’s efficient, cheap, and reformatory Panopticon. However, Bentham made a rather tendentious use of evidence in making his case, exaggerating matters and ignoring facts which did not fit his theory.

View of the Settlement on Sydney Cove, Port Jackson 20th August, 1788, held by the State Library of Victoria (http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/platebk/gid/slv-pic-aac04897/1/pb000463)

A second work arising from the material was A Plea for the Constitution, also known as The True Bastile, which was written circa 1803 but not published until 1812. Bentham now argued that since the Governors of New South Wales had not been given powers to make binding local regulations by Parliament, then they had not legal power to enforce such rules, or punish people for transgressing. Bentham recognised the incendiary nature of this argument, noting in August 1802 that were ‘I to publish [it] now, before Parliament is in readiness to do any thing, the great probability is that the Colony would be in a flame’. However, there is evidence that Bentham supplied a copy to David Collins, then in England but who was soon to depart again for the Antipodes, and that the arguments in A Plea for the Constitution played their part in the rationale for the bloodless overthrow of Governor William Bligh of New South Wales.

As a historian of colonial Australia, this material is very exciting – once transcribed, it will be possible to discern how Bentham developed his case against New South Wales, and formulated and corralled his evidence. It will also contribute to one of the more fertile historiographical trends in the history of convict transportation, namely the anti-transportation campaigns of the 1840s and 1850s; recent work in this area includes Babette Smith’s important Australia’s Birthstain, and a forthcoming discussion forum in the Journal of Australian Colonial History.

Panopticon versus New South Wales had no impact on the policy of transportation at the time of its publication—more and more convicts were transported to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, especially from 1816. But the ideas it contained were discussed at length during the following decades, and they were at the centre of the great show-trial of the convict system, the 1837-1838 Select Committee on Transportation, chaired by the then 27 year-old Radical MP, Sir William Molesworth. He described Bentham as one of England’s ‘greatest and most original thinkers’, used Bentham’s arguments in his speeches, and followed Bentham’s tendentious methods when making his own investigation into transportation. Incidentally, according to the historian John Ritchie, it was ‘a jibe while [Molesworth] was at University that he not only admired Bentham but also understood him’.

We hope you enjoy consulting and transcribing this material! Do let us know if you have any questions.

Progress update, 14 to 20 April 2012

By Tim Causer, on 20 April 2012

Welcome to the progress update for the period 14 to 20 March 2012, during which time further excellent progress has been made.

3,302 manuscripts have now been worked on, which is an increase of 53 on last week’s total. Of these, 3066 (93%) are now complete and locked, up 48 on last week.

The detailed state of progress is as follows:

  • Box 2: 330 manuscripts transcribed of 532 (62%)
  • Box 27: 301 of 350 (86%)
  • Box 35: 231 of 439 (52%)
  • Box 50: 54 of 92 (58%)
  • Box 51: 55 of 940 (5%)
  • Box 62: 51 of 565 (9%)
  • Box 70: 168 of 250 (48%)
  • Box 71: 560 of 665 (84%)
  • Box 72: 397 of 664 (59%)
  • Box 73: 126 of 156 (80%)
  • Box 79: 77 of 199 (38%)
  • Box 95: 45 of 147 (30%)
  • Box 96: 520 of 539 (96%)
  • Box 97: 24 of 288 (8%)
  • Box 100: 75 of 429 (17%)
  • Box 115: 245 of 307 (79%)
  • Box 116: 5 of 218 (<1%)
  • Box 139: 38 of 38 (100%)
  • Overall: 53% of the 6,223 manuscripts uploaded to the website have been transcribed thus far.

Boxes 72 and 100 were the most actively transcribed during the last week. Eagle-eyed readers will have noted that there is a new set of material in the list, Box 116, which contains material relating to Bentham’s writings on the convict colony of New South Wales, and convict transportation more generally. Bentham’s Panopticon versus New South Wales (1802), on which much of these manuscripts is based, is a hugely important early critique of transportation, and its arguments were important in the abolition of transportation to New South Wales in 1840.

Meanwhile at UCL, an artwork by Shirin Homann-Saadat entitled The Third Bentham Box was installed alongside Bentham’s auto-icon this week. You can read more about this piece, and leave your thoughts on it, here. The work will remain on display for a month, and has been sparking almost as much curiosity as the man himself.

Thank you, as ever, to all those who have given their time and effort in contributing to Transcribe Bentham during the last seven days. It is very much appreciated.

Progress update, 7 to 13 April 2012

By Tim Causer, on 13 April 2012

Welcome to the progress update for the period 7 to 13 March 2012, a week in which we have reached yet another landmark. UCL has now reopened, so normal service has now resumed!

3,249 manuscripts have now been worked on, which is an increase of 35 on last week’s total – it’s perhaps little surprise that the rate of transcription is a little lower this week, given we’ve just had the Easter break. Of these, 3,018 (93%) transcripts are now complete and have been locked. This puts us well and truly past our 3,000th completed transcript in little over eighteen months – a superb achievement by TB volunteers.

The detailed state of progress is as follows:

  • Box 2: 330 manuscripts transcribed of 532 (62%)
  • Box 27: 293 of 350 (83%)
  • Box 35: 230 of 439 (52%)
  • Box 50: 54 of 92 (58%)
  • Box 51: 54 of 940 (5%)
  • Box 62: 51 of 565 (9%)
  • Box 70: 168 of 250 (48%)
  • Box 71: 559 of 665 (84%)
  • Box 72: 369 of 664 (55%)
  • Box 73: 126 of 156 (80%)
  • Box 79: 77 of 199 (38%)
  • Box 95: 45 of 147 (30%)
  • Box 96: 520 of 539 (96%)
  • Box 97: 24 of 288 (8%)
  • Box 100: 66 of 429 (15%)
  • Box 115: 245 of 307 (79%)
  • Box 139: 38 of 38 (100%)
  • Overall: 54% of the 6,005 manuscripts uploaded to the website have been transcribed thus far.

Just a reminder that you can read about the development and running of Transcribe Bentham, in ‘Transcription Maximized; Expense Minimized: Crowdsourcing and Editing The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham‘, which was published late last month by Literary and Linguistic Computing.

Also, a shameless reminder that you can vote for Transcribe Bentham in the EngageU public engagement awards. We at TB would be very grateful if you could find the time to vote for the project (there’s no need to sign up for any account, just click the red ‘like this entry’ button). Thank you!

Once again, our warmest thanks to all those who have given their time and effort in participating in Transcribe Bentham over the last couple of weeks. It remains greatly appreciated.

Progress update, 31 March to 6 April 2012

By Tim Causer, on 7 April 2012

Welcome to a brief progress update for the period 31 March to 6 April 2012, more truncated than usual owing to the break.

3,214 manuscripts have now been worked on, an increase of 49 on last week’s total.

The detailed state of progress is as follows:

We look forward to providing fuller details in next week’s progress update, and hope you enjoy the remainder of the holiday.