Humanities Research Software Design: The Wilde Trials Web App


  • Colette Colligan Simon Fraser University
  • Michael Joyce
  • Sarah Bull Cambridge
  • Cécile Loyen



Oscar Wilde, Gross indecency, Trials, 1895, International, Press Coverage, News, Reprint, Verbatim, Web app, Transcription, Digitize, Collection, Algorithm


Background:This article discusses the design of Web-based research software to computationally analyze the international news coverage of the playwright Oscar Wilde’s 1895 sex trials. Over two months, Wilde stood three trials, eventually being convicted of “gross indecency” (1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act).

Analysis: Over the past year, we have collaboratively designed a program to advance our understanding of the trials’ cultural impact as they were reported in newspapers around the world. Bridging our expertise in nineteenth-century cultural history and software engineering, we discuss the concept and design of the Wilde Trials Web App, as well as early discoveries about the French news coverage and plans for the program’s further development.

Conclusion and implications: Our work stands at the forefront of software design and data-driven research on the nineteenth-century press.

Author Biographies

Sarah Bull, Cambridge

Sarah Bull is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, Cambridge, UK CB2 3RH.

Cécile Loyen

Cécile Loyen is a research assistant in the Department of English, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, Canada V5A 1S6