Posts Tagged ‘XML’

The IHR Seminar in Digital History would like to welcome you to its first seminar of the academic year.

Presenter:  Camille Desenclos (École nationale des chartes, Sorbonne)

Title: ‘Rethinking historical research in the digital age: a TEI approach’

Date: October 9, 2012

Time:  5:15 PM (BST=GMT+1)

Venue: Bedford Room G37, Senate house, South block, Ground floor

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.



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.


Seminars are streamed live online at HistorySpot. To keep in touch, follow us on Twitter (@IHRDigHist) or at the hashtag #dhist.



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Two new inter-related free modules are now available on the History SPOT platform beginning a series on digital tools.

The first is about semantic mark-up – this is a beginner’s guide to marking up a text in XML so that it is searchable for information pertinent to historical research.  Semantic mark-up is extremely common in History digital projects.  Take for example the Old Bailey Proceedings Online or TAMO (The Acts and Monuments Online, otherwise known as the John Foxe Project).  Both websites have marked up their texts so that you can find specific persons, places, and types of information from an index or via a search engine.  Our module will guide you from beginning to end of that process from the starting point of no knowledge whatsoever (beyond some basic knowledge of using computers).

The same is true for the second module, on the topic of text mining.  Where semantic mark-up enables you to find known information more easily, text mining gives you the opportunity to add additional structure to unstructured text (or texts) to enable research on relationships otherwise difficult to identify.  For example, text mining would enable you to explore a large body of text, such as the Old Bailey records, and ask questions about associations: does, for example, mention of wine or beer appear most often with acts of violence or illness?  You would presume it does, but text mining will allow you to confirm that fact.

Now, text mining is undoubtedly a more specialist tool and to use it properly requires some extensive technical expertise.  Our module tries to introduce you to the subject lightly and builds upon the training given for semantic mark-up.  Beginners should be able to work their way through the module and understand what they are being asked to do and why.  The module won’t tell you everything there is to know about text mining, nor will it train you in using development tools (although it will show you where you can go to get some basic knowledge on these).  What it will do is show you what is involved and what you might get out of it before taking extensive time to learn the tools in-depth.

Sample page from the Text Mining module

In addition to these two digital tools training modules, we have a tool audit (a list of various digital tools with a little introductory information) and a series of case studies.  These are on the topics of semantic data, text mining, visualisation, linked data, and cloud computing.

These training materials are all outcomes from the JISC funded HISTORE project.  For more details of that project please visit the HISTORE Blog and the Digital Skills workshop podcasts on History SPOT.


To view the Digital Tools course materials click here.

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