Quantitative Data: Examples of Data Structures

3. Complex Data

3.1 Criminal Trials


Dennes Brannam and William Purcel, were indicted, for that they, on the King's highway, on Thomas Whiffin , did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, one hat, val. 8 s. one peruke, val. 10 s. from his person did steal, take, and carry away, Dec. 13 .

...Both Guilty. Death.

- Old Bailey Online

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English criminal trials are ideal sources for quantification. Offences, verdicts and punishments are categories of information that can be standardised and counted in various ways to investigate patterns over time, and often gender and age. They were carefully recorded by officials and many of the records have survived.

However, they are also highly complex sources. Trials can contain highly variable numbers of defendants, victims, charges, verdicts and punishments - many trials only have one defendant, but some may have dozens.

The above trial has one offence (highway robbery) but two defendants (a "one to many" relationship). In this trial, both are given the same verdict and sentence, but that is not always the case. Meanwhile, other trials may contain multiple offences, and where this is the case there can be multiple verdicts and, when there are guilty verdicts, multiple punishments ("many to many" relationships) for a single trial.

Spreadsheets cannot store complex information like this (or at least, not without a great deal of data duplication and inefficiency). The solution to recording and storing this kind of information for analysis is to use a relational database with multiple linked tables