Posts Tagged ‘Digital History’

Digital History seminar
9 October 2012
Camille Desenclos (ENC, Sorbonne)
Rethinking Historical Research in the Digital Age: A TEI Approach


Abstract: Historical research cannot be conceived without a close relation to physical text:  paper is still the main source. However the emergence and subsequent multiplication of digital technologies within the historical field have tended to modify the examination of sources. This change is particularly apparent for text editions: how is one to manage the transfer from the manuscript age to a digital one? Can sources be understood and analysed without physical support?

This paper will be based on experiences of using electronic editions of early modern texts, specifically diplomatic correspondences such as L’ambassade extraordinaire du duc d’Angoulême, comte de Béthune et abbé de Préaux vers les princes et potentats de l’Empire. TEI, a XML-based language, has been chosen for those editions. Using such a structured language – a far cry from the plain text created by classical text editors – implies changing the conception of what an edition is. We need not just think about texts anymore but only about the historical information contained within the text and which has to be highlighted in terms of the research. This requires researchers to think more about what they want and what they want to show in their studies. Above all, it allows researchers to track specific features such as diplomatic formulas and then to facilitate their analysis.

The aim of this talk is to ask if and how digital technologies have changed how historians view sources and even if they have changed the historical studies themselves; how TEI can be used to create new kind of editions. This paper will try to show how, if well used, TEI and digital technologies highlight and add to the results of historical studies.


Biography:  Camille Desenclos is currently completing her PhD at the École nationale des Chartes where she is also engaged in leading several projects to create electronic editions of medieval and early modern texts including an edition of the correspondance of Antoine du Bourg. Her PhD is entitled ‘The Communication Policy of France in the Holy Roman Empire at the beginning of the Thirty Years War (1617-1624)’. A fundamental part of her PhD research includes creating electronic editions and the encoding and ciphering of diplomatic correspondence and structures in related medieval charters. Camille has given numerous conference papers largely concentrating on the Text Encoding Initiative and its application to her research. She was also a Visiting Researcher at the Department of Digital Humanities (DDH) at King’s last year. An electronic edition of the ‘Ambassade extraordinaire des duc d’Angoulême, comte de Béthune et abbé de Préaux’ which she has written will be available online shortly.

To listen or watch this podcast go here.

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The next Digital History seminar will be streamed over live video link on 29 October 2013 at 5.15pm (GMT).  See details below:


Title: Ideology and Algorithms: The uses of nationalism in the American Civil War and topic Modeling in historical Research

Speaker: Robert Nelson (University of Richmond)

Venue: Athlone Room, 102, Senate house, first floor

Time: Tuesday, October 29th, 5:15 pm GMT  (please note that time differences between UK and USA are one hour less than usual)


The 9th New York Infantry Regiment charging the Confederate right at Antietam. (wikipedia)

The 9th New York Infantry Regiment charging the Confederate right at Antietam. (wikipedia)

Abstract: This presentation will explore the instrumental functions of nationalistic and patriotic rhetoric during the Civil War. Using an innovative text-mining technique called topic modeling to analyze the entire runs of the Richmond Daily Dispatch and the New-York Times during the war, it will suggest that the two newspapers used the same language of patriotism and nationalism but to different ends: the former to draw men into the army, the latter to draw voters to the polls to support the Republic Party.  It will also reflect upon the broader methodological value of topic modeling, suggesting how cultural and intellectual historians can use the technique to interpret the concrete political, social, and emotional functions of elusive ideological discourses.

Rob Nelson is the Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab and affiliated faculty in the American Studies program at the University of Richmond.  He has directed and developed a number of digital humanities projects including “Mining the Dispatch,” “Redlining Richmond,” and the History Engine.  He’s currently working on a couple of projects.  One uses a text-mining technique called topic modeling to analyze nationalism in Civil War newspapers.  The other is an multi-year, collaborative project to develop an extensive digital atlas of American history.

Robert will be speaking via live video link. The seminar will be streamed live online at HistorySpot. To keep in touch, follow us on Twitter (@IHRDigHist) or at the hashtag #dhist.

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adam-crymble-cropThis year the Digital History seminar will again be streaming live over the internet.  The first of these will be this coming Tuesday (15 October) when long-time attendee Adam Crymble (King’s College London) will be discussing his doctorate study.  Please feel free to join us either in person (in the Bedford room G37, Senate House) or live online at History SPOT.  Full details below:



The Programming Historian 2: Collaborative Pedagogy for Digital History

Adam Crymble (King’s College London)

Digital History seminar

Tuesday, 15 October 2013, 5:15pm (BST/GMT+1)

Bedford Room G37, Senate house, Ground floor 


The Programming Historian 2 offers open access, peer reviewed tutorials designed to provide historians with new technical skills that are immediately relevant to their research needs. The project also offers a peer reviewed platform for those seeking to share their skills with other historians and humanists. In this talk, Adam will discuss the project from behind the scenes, looking at how it has grown and hopes to continue to grow, as an enduring digital humanities project and alternative publishing and learning platform.


Adam Crymble is one of the founding editors of the Programming Historian 2. He is the author of ‘How to Write a Zotero Translator: A Practical Beginners Guide for Humanists’ and is finishing a PhD in history and digital humanities at King’s College London. Adam is also a Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute.

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Digital History seminar
23 October 2012
Luke Blaxill (King’s College London)
Quantifying the Language of British Politics, 1880-1914

shutterstock_9709540[1]Abstract: This paper explores the power, potential, and challenges of studying historical political speeches using a specially constructed multi-million word corpus via quantitative computer software. The techniques used – inspired particularly by Corpus Linguists – are almost entirely novel in the field of political history, an area where research into language is conducted nearly exclusively qualitatively. The paper argues that a corpus gives us the crucial ability to investigate matters of historical interest (e.g. the political rhetoric of imperialism, Ireland, and class) in a more empirical and systematic manner, giving us the capacity to measure scope, typicality, and power in a massive text like a national general election campaign which it would be impossible to read in entirety.

The paper also discusses some of the main arguments against this approach which are commonly presented by critics, and reflects on the challenges faced by quantitative language analysis in gaining more widespread acceptance and recognition within the field.

To listen to this podcast or video click here.

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The next live stream will be a joint session from the Digital History seminar and Archives and Society seminar.  Details follows:

Web archives: a new class of primary source for historians ?
Peter Webster (British Library) and Richard Deswarte (University of East Anglia)
 Joint Archives and Society and Digital History seminar
11 June 2013, 5.15pm GMT

Abstract:  When viewed in historical context, the speed at which the world wide web has become fundamental to the exchange of information is perhaps unprecedented. The Internet Archive began its work in archiving the web in 1996, and since then national libraries and other memory institutions have followed suit in archiving the web along national or thematic lines. However, whilst scholars of the web as a system have been quick to embrace archived web materials as the stuff of their scholarship, historians have been slower in thinking through the nature and possible uses of a new class of primary source.

In April 2013 the six legal deposit libraries for the UK were granted powers to archive the whole of the UK web domain, in parallel with the historic right of legal deposit for print. As such, over time there will be a near-comprehensive archive of the UK web available for historical analysis, which will grow and grow in value as the span of time it covers lengthens. This paper introduces the JISC-funded AADDA (Analytical Access to the Domain Dark Archive) project. Led by the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) in partnership with the British Library and the University of Cambridge, AADDA seeks to demonstrate the value of longitudinal web archives by means of the JISC UK Web Domain Dataset. This dataset includes the holdings of the Internet Archive for the UK for the period 1996-2010, purchased by the JISC and placed in the care of the British Library. The project has brought together scholars from the humanities and social sciences in order to begin to imagine what scholarly enquiry with assets such as these would look like.


Dr Peter Webster is web archiving and engagement and liaison manager for the British Library, and an historian of contemporary Britain.

Dr Richard Deswarte is Research Associate in the School of History at UEA. He will speak about his AADDA project which examines how the Web Domain Dataset can be used to explore the rise of British Euroscepticism. He will highlight some of the digital approaches and wider research goals from his initial exploratory work using the archive.

To join us on the live stream click on the podcast page of History SPOT and open up the pop out boxes on 11 June.

Additional resources:

The AADDA project blog

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The next IHR live stream will take place at 5.15pm on 14 May 2013 with the Digital History seminar.  Details below:

Digital History seminar
Matthew Hammond
The People of Medieval Scotland database: structure, prosopography and network visualisation
The People of Medieval Scotland 1093-1314 website (click on image to view)

The People of Medieval Scotland 1093-1314 website (click on image to view)

This is a seminar about a prosopographical database, ‘The People of Medieval Scotland, 1093-1314’, which has been in production since 2007, and which has been freely available online since the summer of 2010. Since the relaunch of the database last year, we have had over 40,000 unique visitors from across the globe. Now nearing completion, the database contains records on over 20,000 individuals, drawn from over 8500 medieval, mostly Latin documents. The paper will examine some of the PoMS project’s technical innovations as well as the new directions we hope to take in the coming years.

The seminar will take you behind the scenes of the public website to see how this database evolved from the factoid prosopography model created for the ‘Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England’ (PASE) by John Bradley of the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, now Department of Digital Humanities, at Kings College London. PoMS has developed what might be called a ‘transactional model’ of factoid prosopography, due to the fact that it is comprised almost entirely of transactional documents like charters. Rather than simply recording events, the transactional model is explicitly interested in relations between individuals as recorded in the documents. We will examine the new structures PoMS incorporates to allow end users the ability to research the terms of the transaction, and thus the nature of the interaction between people, as well as multiple transactions happening at different times within the same document. We will look at the work of Michele Pasin, formerly of DDH, in developing new ways for users to both search and visualise these transactions. The seminar will finish with a consideration of the capabilities of the database for studying the social networks, and visualising the relationships between large numbers of people.

Matthew Hammond is a Research Associate in the School of Humanities at the University of Glasgow and former Lecturer in Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh. Since 2007, he has been a team member of the AHRC-funded projects that created the ‘People of Medieval Scotland, 1093-1286’ database (www.poms.ac.uk) and is now working on a Leverhulme-funded project to expand the capabilities of that database, especially in the area of Social Network Analysis.

To take part in the live stream visit History SPOT on 14 May at 5.15pm and open up the pop out video, slide show, chat, and twitter feed.

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Digital History seminar
Ben Schmidt (Princeton University)
Unintended consequences: digital reading and the loci of cultural change

Tuesday 12 March 2013, 5.15pm GMT

Live Stream (click here on Tuesday to view the live stream)
digital readingAbstract: Large scale digital reading is, as its critics have noticed, quite poor at telling us about individual intentions. But digital texts do create new fields for investigation of broad cultural trends which—where reasonably good metadata is available—can help historians to describe changes that appear largely driven by disciplinary or geographical structures rather than the choices of an individual author.

I will investigate this in two contexts; in the emergence of a new vocabulary of attention in the 20th century directly contrary to the ambitions of the psychological establishment; and the particular places authors of historical fiction fail to notice changes in language and culture.

Biography: Ben Schmidt is a Ph.D. Candidate in American intellectual history at Princeton and the Graduate Fellow at the Cultural Observatory at Harvard. His dissertation studies the emergence of modern conceptions of attention in psychology, advertising, and mass media in the early 20th century century United States. He co-developed Bookworm, a system for visual and statistical exploration of millions of books, newspaper pages, or journal articles, and writes about text analysis and the digital humanities at sappingattention.blogspot.com.

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