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©FelixArchief, Stadsarchief Antwerpen



Oostkamp, 1846. The merchant Bernardus Dhoore fell victim to several coal thefts. Who had done it, or who had seen or heard something suspicious? Witness depositions were one way to discover the 'truth' and track down the culprit. These sources remain of great importance today, just as they were back then because they reveal an exceptional amount of information about past societies. These narratives of witness experiences reveal the daily reality of a wide range of people, including male and female commoners who often remain hidden for historians. How did contemporaries use public space? What were the norms and values at that time? How were social relations shaped? Did the vernacular change during time? This project Witnesses (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) aims to gather and transcribe 18th and 19th century witness depositions preserved at the various city and state archives in Belgium with the help of volunteers. These transcriptions will enrich our understanding of past crime, language history, past societies, and so much more.




To gather this data, we need your help! Would you like to know more about past crimes and their witnesses, victims and suspects? Or, are you interested in 18th and 19th century language, texts and handwritings? Then, we can definitely use your support. In the near future, we will set up a platform where you can find these sources and can transcribe as much as you like. To be continued.

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