Next seminar – Tuesday 7 October – Introducing Paper Machines

The IHR Seminar in Digital History is back for another year. We will be announcing our full programme for 2014-15 soon and details about the live stream, but in the meantime we would like to welcome you to our first session of our new programme. Please keep the date free!

Title: Introducing Paper Machines

Date:  7 October 2014

Time:  5:15 PM (BST=GMT+1)

Venue:  Room 208, Senate House

Speaker: Jo Guldi (Brown University)

Abstract: Historians of the twentieth century have to contend with a technological problem, the issue of archives too large to process by traditional methods.  While textual encoding, tagging, and n-grams can reveal certain patterns in digital archives, topic modeling and topic frequency, applied to hand-tailored archives, can help the historian make informed decisions about where in an archive to start looking.  Digital methods, in this way, are driving historians to longer and longer time scales, making it possible for even younger scholars to perform a ‘distant reading’ on big questions that range over nations and centuries.  The talk will follow parts of the argument of The History Manifesto (2014), comparing how a historian’s search for periodization, agency, and causality in the data compare with use and abuse of digital data in other digital fields.

Speaker Biography: Jo Guldi is author of Roads to Power (2012), What is the Spatial Turn? (2012), The History Manifesto(2014), and the digital toolkit Paper Machines (2012).  She is Hans Rothfels Assistant Professor of Modern Britain and its Empire at Brown University.  Her next project, The Long Land War, examines a century and a half of movements for land and water around the globe.

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Next seminar – Tuesday 17 June – Mapping the Medieval Countryside

The IHR Seminar in Digital History would like to welcome you to its final seminar of the 2014 summer term.

Speaker: Dr Matthew Holford, University of Winchester

Title: Mapping the Medieval Countryside: Places, People and Properties in the Inquisitions Post Mortem

Date:  17 June, 2014

Time:  5:15 PM (BST=GMT+1)

Venue:  Athlone Room, 102, Senate House, South Block, First floor, or live online at http://www.livestream.com/historyspot

Abstract: Mapping the Medieval Countryside is a major research project dedicated to the online publication of medieval English inquisitions post mortem (IPMs).

These inquisitions, which recorded the lands held at their deaths by tenants of the crown, comprise the most extensive and important body of source material for landholding in medieval England. They describe the lands held by thousands of families, from nobles to peasants, and are a key source for the history of almost every settlement in England (and of many in Wales).  They are indispensable to local and family historians as well as to academic specialists in areas as diverse as agrarian history and political society.

The project will publish a searchable English translation of the IPMs covering the periods 1236 to 1447 and 1485 to 1509. From 1399 to 1447 the text will be enhanced to enable sophisticated analysis and mapping of the inquisitions’ contents. The online texts will be accompanied by a wealth of commentary and interpretation to enable all potential users to exploit this source easily and effectively.

Speaker biography: Matthew Holford gained his first degree at the University of Cambridge, and an MA and DPhil in Medieval Studies from the University of York. He subsequently worked for the Oxford English Dictionary and held research posts at the Universities of Durham and Cambridge. He is currently Research Officer on the AHRC-funded Inquisitions Post Mortem Project.

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Next seminar – Tuesday 3 June 2014 – Digitising the First World War: opportunities and challenges

The IHR Seminar in Digital History would like to welcome you to its first seminar of the 2014 summer term.

Speaker:  Professor Sir Deian Hopkin (President of the National Library of Wales)

Title:  Digitising the First World War: Opportunities and Challenges

Date:  3 June, 2014

Time:  5:15 PM (BST=GMT+1)

Venue:  Athlone Room, 102, Senate House, South Block, First floor, or live online at HistorySpot

Abstract:  One of the most important legacies of the commemoration of the First World War will be an extensive range of new digital archives.  The Imperial War Museum is leading a partnership of many hundreds of organisations, many of whom are involved in capturing records, visual artefacts, memoirs and much else.  The National Archives now offers a wide variety of resources, from war diaries and nurses’ records to interviews with prisoners of war and records of military service appeal tribunals and has launched a crowd-sourcing site to identify data contained within war diaries.  The National Library of Wales hosts the People’s Collection, also a crowd-sourcing platform, which enables individuals and organisations to upload diaries, letters, photographs and other artefacts, and a dedicated website provides searchable access to Welsh newspapers during the war, part of a much larger collection of Welsh Newspapers Online.  And there is much else, on the same lines, taking place in libraries, record offices and among informal groups across the country.

In his acclaimed book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty pays a particular debt to improvements in the technology of research, most specifically computers, which enabled him to process data on a huge scale and offer a new synthesis; indeed he claims his work to be as much about history as economics.  Twenty years ago, there was a rush of enthusiasm for the use of computing technology by historians.  Since then, despite huge technical advances and a communications revolution, there is a sense that most historians have remained aloof from these new developments.  Some of the tools available in the 1980s and 1990s have not evolved and there is much less written nowadays about techniques and methodology; indeed there appear to be little provision for historians to develop the particular skills needed to exploit rich digital archives, especially structured data.

While the new resources appear to offer exciting prospects, are we any nearer being able to exploit them?  This presentation will discuss the opportunities which are now available but the challenges that still remain.

Speaker:  Professor Sir Deian Hopkin spent 43 years in higher education, retiring as Vice Chancellor of London South Bank University in 2009. He was a co-founder of the Association of History and Computing and active in the CTI, the History Data Archive and other initiatives in the 1980s and 1990s. He is currently President of the National Library of Wales, a trustee of the IHR Development Trust and Chair of the Wales Programme Committee for the First World War Centenary.

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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Next seminar – Tuesday 18 March 2014 – Ian Rawes, ‘Seen and not heard: the struggle for control over London’s street sounds’

faahs_05Ian Rawes (British Library)

Venue: Athlone Room (102), 1st Floor, Senate House, Malet Street (or live online at Live Stream)

Time: Tuesday 18 March 2014, 5.15 PM (GMT)

Abstract: Up until the early 1800s London’s raucous soundscape was popularly described as emblematic of the liberty and vigour of its inhabitants. Over a hundred years later, the last lavender sellers were banned from raising their sales cries by the Metropolitan Police and John Betjeman was reminiscing on the radio about a vanished world of London sounds. In this talk, Ian Rawes will examine the reasons for these changes using sources including early field recordings, borough medical officers’ reports, road surface maps, and a century’s worth of noise complaints in the Times newspaper.

Ian Rawes works for the British Library’s Listening and Viewing Service. In his spare time he runs the London Sound Survey, an online collection of present-day and archival field recordings of the capital.

Image: The pedlar of Lambeth and his dog as drawn in 1786 for Ducarel’s “History of  Lambeth” (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21852/21852-h/21852-h.htm)

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Next seminar – Tuesday 4 March 2014 – Devon Elliott, ‘Magical experiments: levitation in the golden age of stage magic’

Harry_Kellar_toasts_the_Devil,_performing_arts_poster,_ca._1899Devon Elliott (University of Western Ontario)

Venue: Athlone Room (102), 1st Floor, Senate House, Malet Street (or live online at Live Stream)

Time: Tuesday 4 March 2014, 5.15 PM (GMT)

Abstract: Digital tools, such as desktop fabrication and physical computing, afford historians the opportunity to experiment with the experiential and subjective past. We can make tangible things only described in documentary evidence and put them into action. The history of stage magic is a useful topic to experiment with these tools given the ephemeral and momentary events of performed illusions, and the role of secrecy with respect to the knowledge of how those methods functioned. Levitations have been a popular effect for stage magicians since the late 1800s following innovative methods by British magician and inventor, John Nevil Maskelyne, and popularized in the United States by American magician, Harry Kellar. In this talk, I discuss how magicians learned to fly in the 19th century, and new hands-on methods we can use to learn about that today.

Image from the Performing Arts Poster Collection at the Library of Congress.

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Live Stream – 18 February 2014

Join us for the live stream here.

The seminar begins at 5.15pm (UK time) on Tuesday 18 February 2014.

For more information about the seminar click here for our previous post: John Schofield and John Wall, ‘Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral and Paul’s Cross’

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Next seminar – Tuesday 18 February 2014 – John Schofield and John Wall, ‘Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral and Paul’s Cross’

0142-3cranes-320John Schofield (Cathedral Archaeologist, St Paul’s Cathedral) and Professor John Wall (North Carolina State University)

Venue: Athlone Room (102), 1st Floor, Senate House, Malet Street (or live online at Live Stream)

Time: Tuesday 18 February 2014, 5.15 PM (GMT)

Abstract: This paper is in two parts. First, John Schofield, the Cathedral Archaeologist for St Paul’s Cathedral, describes both recent conventional and digital attempts to reconstruct the medieval St Paul’s Cathedral, which preceded the present building by Christopher Wren. Second, John Wall, of North Carolina State University, describes a newly-completed project to recreate the public preaching place of Paul’s Cross, which lay to the north-east of the cathedral, in the early 17th century, and to provide the experience of listening to a sermon by John Donne, from various locations near the Cross. Schofield provided the information for reconstruction of the cathedral and St Paul’s Churchyard. Aspects of the experience will be demonstrated. We report on issues raised by these research ventures, such as authenticity, attempts to make models less than pristine, and how the work itself creates new questions for archaeologists, historians, literature professors and software developers to address.

You can find out more about Virtual St Paul’s at http://vpcp.chass.ncsu.edu/

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Seminar cancelled – Tuesday 26 November

We very much regret that we have had to cancel the final seminar of the autumn term, Erica Calogero on ‘Neither art nor history: revealing what counts in representing lost, altered or imagined historic architecture’ (due to have taken place at 5.15 GMT).

There are some great speakers and projects lined up for next term, so we hope you will join us again on 4 February to hear from Professor Sir Deian Hopkin.

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Next seminar – Tuesday 12 November 2013 – Rob Iliffe, ‘Re-writing a life: Isaac Newton as revealed from his digital archive’

Professor Rob Iliffe (University of Sussex)

‘Re-writing a life: Isaac Newton as revealed from his digital archive’

Venue: Athlone Room (102), 1st Floor, Senate House, Malet Street (or live online at History SPOT)

Time: Tuesday 12 November 2013, 5.15 PM (GMT)

Abstract: This paper will consider the experience of the Newton Project, which has digitised and made available online the multi-million word organic personal and printed archive of Sir Isaac Newton. In doing so, it will also reconsider the life of Isaac Newton on the basis of his digitised Theological Papers and his other scientific and mathematical writings (http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk).

Speaker: Rob Iliffe is the Director of the AHRC Newton Papers Project with an overall responsibility for completing the online publication of all four million words of Newton’s Theological Papers. He is also responsible for extending the scope of the original project to include dealing with Newton’s scientific and mathematical work. Rob gained his PhD from Cambridge University and is currently Professor of Intellectual History and the History of Science at the University of Sussex. He is the author of A Very Short Introduction to Isaac Newton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), and has published extensively on early modern history and the history of science. He is currently completing a major work on Newton’s theology for online release.

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

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Next Seminar – Tuesday 29 October – Robert Nelson ‘Ideology and Algorithms: The uses of nationalism in the American Civil War and topic modeling in historical research’

Robert Nelson (University of Richmond)

‘Ideology and Algorithms: The uses of nationalism in the American Civil War and topic modeling in historical research’

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)

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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