Computatio Humanitatis - Digital Humanities

The advice is free and worth every penny   Sewarp from the internet focusing on Digital Humanities (including DH in Europe), Early Modern history, librarianship and the history of books and publishing

Historical network analysis panels at the XXXIII Sunbelt Social Networks Conference of the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA), 21-26 May 2013, Hamburg, Germany

conference url

Historical Network Research I

May 22nd, hosts: Marten Düring, Martin Stark

Visualising the Social Relationships in a Narrative: Possibilities of Using Network Science for the Analysis of Medieval Historiography. The Case of Pseudo-Falcandus´ Liber De Regno Sicilie
Fernández-Aceves, Hervin

Craftsmen of Luxembourg in the Late Middle Ages
Jullien, Eva

Household-to-Company Networks and Consumer Credit in Renaissance Florence
Mclean, Paul, Gondal, Neha

Collective Action Networks in Historical Context: Data, Differences, Difficulties and Gains
Crossley, Nick

A Network Analysis of Preferential Trade Agreements: 1815 - 1914
De Benedictis, Luca1, Nenci, Silvia2

Modeling Asymmetric International Commodity Flows through Time
Faust, Katherine1, Mahutga, Matthew2

Historical Network Research II

May 24th, hosts: Hilde Bras, Christine Fertig

Client-king? Me? The Social Networks of Local Rulers in the Roman Near East Seland,
Eivind H.

Personal Networks and Social Classes in Rural Society. A Microstudy on Two Parishes in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Westphalia (Northwestern Germany)
Fertig, Christine

Path Dependence or Societal Structures? A Comparison of Social and Political Networks in the Low Countries During the Seventeenth Century
Van Dijck, Maarten F.

The Social Marriage Network of Europe’s Ruling Families, 1600-1900 
Schröter, Wilko

Visualizing Historical Kinship Networks Using Data from Marriage Registers: The Netherlands, 1830-1950
Bras, Hilde1, Kasakoff, Alice2, Guo, Diansheng3, Koylu,Caglar3

Historical Network Research III

May 25th, hosts: Marten Düring, Martin Stark

Mapping the Congress of Vienna 1814/15
Kerschbaumer, Florian

Information Networks Rethink. The Dimension of Spatial Dynamic on Diffusion Processes - A Historiographical Approach
Jacobs, Melanie, Reupke, Daniel

Networks of Creditors and Debtors: A Rural Credit Market in Nineteenthcentury Germany
Stark, Martin

A Scene that Prides itself on Doing-it-Yourself - Network Formation and Innovation within the First Wave of Californian Hardcore Punk (1978-1986)
Weiler, Michael

Reconstructing Third World Elite Rotation Events from Newspapers
Traag, Vincent A.1, Van Klinken, Gerry2

Archaeological Networks

Hosts: Ulrik Brandes, Angus Mol

The Social and Spatial Dynamics of Social Networks in the Late Prehispanic Southwest
Mills, Barbara J.1, Peeples, Matthew2, Borck, Lewis R.1, Clark, Jeffery J.2, Haas Jr., W. R.1, Hill, Brett2, Roberts Jr.,John M.3

Which Network Model Should I Use? A Quantitative Comparison of Spatial Network Models in Archaeology
Evans, Tim S.1, Rivers, Ray1, Knappett, Carl2

Seven Ways to Think of the Eruption of Thera
Rivers, Ray1, Evans, Tim1, Knappett, Carl2

Exploring Archaeological Visibility Networks with ERGM: A Case Study on Urban Connectivity in Iron Age and Roman Southern Spain
Brughmans, Tom1, Keay, Simon2, Earl, Graeme1

Authority and Social Interaction in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt: Social Network Analysis and the Zenon Archive
Vanbeselaere, Silke, Broux, Yanne


Further information on  the conference Website

— 1 year ago
#conferences  #germany  #social network analysis  #digital history 
2 CFP’s: Renaissance Libraries and Renaissance Cartography (RSA 2014)

Renaissance Libraries

This session will consider the creation and maintenance of private, school, church, or public libraries during the Renaissance.

Renaissance Cartography

The Renaissance was one of the great ages of cartography: the combination of the technology of printing with the Age of Exploration led to new ways of conceiving of the world and new ways to represent it.  This session will explore some of the major aspects of cartography in the Renaissance, focusing on one or more of the following: changes in map production; changes in map consumption; conventions for representing “otherness” in maps; international influences in mapmaking; and/or using maps to represent a specific story or stories.  Entries concerning any geographical area are welcome.


[For both CFP’s,] please see the RSA submission guidelines for complete information.  Proposals for this session should be submitted to Kathleen Comerford, Georgia Southern University (  Each proposed paper must include: paper title; abstract (150-word maximum); keywords; and a brief curriculum vitae (300-word maximum). 

Deadline for submission of abstracts: May 15, 2013.

— 1 year ago with 2 notes
#Renaissance  #conferences 
Conference: Network Conference for German Scholars of Book History and Print Culture / Netzwerk-Tagung für deutschsprachige Wissenschaftler_innen im Bereich Buch-, Schrift- und Druckgeschichte

Space-time location: Freiburg im Breisgau (Germania), May 2013

Doris Lechner (Englisches Seminar der Universität Freiburg); PD Dr.

Stefanie Lethbridge (Englisches Seminar der Universität Freiburg); Corinna Norrick-Rühl (Institut für Buchwissenschaft der Universität


09.05.2013-10.05.2013, Freiburg im Breisgau, Liefmann-Haus, Goethestraße 33-35, 79100 Freiburg

Deadline: 26.04.2013

The study of print culture or book history is an interdisciplinary challenge that has been met in different ways across the globe. The subject has been burgeoning in the Anglophone academic world for nearly two decades now, and 2013 marks the 21st anniversary of the first annual meeting of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP). While the German tradition in the study of the book was established many decades before, it seems to us that scholars from German-speaking countries are rather thinly represented internationally.

We want to change this!

Die Erforschung von Buch-, Schrift- und Druckgeschichte ist eine interdisziplinäre Herausforderung der Wissenschaftler_innen überall auf der Welt auf verschiedene Weisen begegnen. Das Thema ist seit zwei Jahrzehnten vor allem in der angloamerikanischen akademischen Welt virulent; 2013 findet die 21. Jahrestagung der Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) statt. Während die deutschsprachige Forschungstradition deutlich weiter zurückreicht, scheint es uns, dass Wissenschaftler_innen aus deutschsprachigen Gebieten international wenig Aufmerksamkeit erhalten. Hier wollen wir ansetzen!

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— 1 year ago with 1 note
Call For Data: Dirty Historical Data, that is… (Seth van Hooland and the Programming Historian)

I’m currently preparing a lesson on the topic of data quality for in order to demonstrate how historians can use data profiling techniques to diagnose and enhance the quality of source materials.

If you are aware of a particularly interesting historical dataset which could be used as a case-study for this lesson, please get in touch. Two conditions: 1) the bigger the dataset, the better and 2) the dataset should be made available through the license.   

A concrete example: by using faceting and clustering techniques, researchers interested in the analyzing the different ships described in the database can cluster together the same realities which are interpreted as different due to spelling or character encoding differences. The screenshot available on illustrates this approach.

Kind regards,

Seth van Hooland

Président du Master en Sciences et Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (MaSTIC) Université Libre de Bruxelles Av. F.D. Roosevelt, 50 CP 123  | 1050 Bruxelles!/sethvanhooland

— 1 year ago
Culture & Technology - European Summer School in Digital Humanities

Space-time location:  July 22-August 2, 2013

University of Leipzig

We are happy to announce that the phase of application for a place at the European Summer School in Digital Humanities “Culture & Technology” has now started.

The Summer School is directed at 60 participants from all over Europe and beyond. The Summer School wants to bring together (doctoral) students, young scholars and academics from the Arts and Humanities, Library Sciences, Engineering and Computer Sciences as equal partners to an interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge and experience in a multilingual and multicultural context and thus create the conditions for future project-based cooperations and network-building across the borders of disciplines, countries and cultures.

The Summer School aims to provide a stimulating environment for discussing, learning and advancing knowledge and skills in the methods and technologies which play a central role in Humanities Computing and determine more and more the work done in the Arts and Humanities, in libraries, archives, and similar fields. The Summer School seeks to integrate these activities into the broader context of the Digital Humanities, where questions about the consequences and implications of the application of computational methods and tools to cultural artefacts of all kinds are asked. It further aims to provide insights into the complexity of humanistic data and the challenges the Humanities present for computer science and engineering and their further development.

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— 1 year ago with 4 notes
Distant reading and representativeness (Ted Underwood)

Posted on April 1, 2013

Digital collections are vastly expanding literary scholars’ field of view: instead of describing a few hundred well-known novels, we can now test our claims against corpora that include tens of thousands of works. But because this expansion of scope has also raised expectations, the question of representativeness is often discussed as if it were a weakness rather than a strength of digital methods. How can we ever produce a corpus complete and balanced enough to represent print culture accurately?

I think the question is wrongly posed, and I’d like to suggest an alternate frame. As I see it, the advantage of digital methods is that we never need to decide on a single model of representation. We can and should keep enlarging digital collections, to make them as inclusive as possible. But no matter how large our collections become, the logic of representation itself will always remain open to debate. For instance, men published more books than women in the eighteenth century. Would a corpus be correctly balanced if it reproduced those disproportions? Or would a better model of representation try to capture the demographic reality that there were roughly as many women as men? There’s something to be said for both views.

Scott Weingart tweet.

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— 1 year ago
“EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History” Roundtable I and II @ ASECS 2013

Posted to EMOB on March 22, 2013 by 

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) and the Bibliographical Society of America (BSA) are co-sponsoring two roundtables at the upcoming American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) conference in Cleveland, 4-6 April 2013: “ECCO, EEBO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History I and II.

The idea for these sessions originated in earlier EMOB posts, especially Anna’s posting EEBO Interactions and Bibliography: Linking the Past to the Present” and the twenty-two comments her remarks prompted. The full Call for this roundtable can be viewed here. This space offers an opportunity to preview these two sessions and exchange ideas in advance of the sessions. The results of the Digital Humanities Caucus Technology Survey reports that members have found ASECS sessions devoted to these tools particularly useful, so we are hoping that many will not only attend these sessions but will also participate. For those who cannot attend, this forum will enable you to participate virtually, and a follow-up post summarizing the roundtables will enable you to obtain the highlights of the exchange.

The lineup for the two roundtables is as follows:

“EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History” (SHARP BSA Roundtable) I
Chair: Eleanor F. SHEVLIN (West Chester University)

  • 1. Anna BATTIGELLI (SUNY Plattsburgh)
  • 2. Kevin Joel BERLAND (Pennsylvania State University)
  • 3. Laura RUNGE (University of South Florida)
  • 4. Stephen KARIAN (University of Missouri)

“EEBO, ECCO, and Burney as Tools for Bibliography and Book History” (SHARP BSA Roundtable) II

Chair: Anna BATTIGELLI (SUNY Plattsburgh)

  • 1. Jacob HEIL (Texas A&M University)
  • 2. Eleanor F. SHEVLIN (West Chester University)
  • 3. Norbert SCHÜRER (California State University, Long Beach)
  • 4. Rivka SWENSON (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Participants will be discussing a wide array of uses for these tools in pursing bibliographical issues and book-history matters. The discussions will address the ways these databases can be employed both for advanced research and for pedagogical purposes.

We invite the participants to provide the general focus of their remarks and attendees to suggest areas that they hope will be addressed.

— 1 year ago
Transitions: Book, Text, and Place 1500–1750 Research Centre, Bath Spa University (UK)

July 4-5, 2013 Conference will focus on the theme of Transitions, whether material, spatial and/or temporal in the period 1500-1750. This conference will held on 4-5 July, 2013 at our wonderful Corsham Court centre, just outside Bath. Plenary Speakers: Professor Julie Sanders (University of Nottingham) Professor Marcus Walsh (University of Liverpool) Professor Henry Woudhuysen (Lincoln College, University of Oxford) Transitions 1500-1750 aims to explore a wide range of transitions from a variety of critical and historical perspectives. We are particularly interested in papers that reflect on the impact that such transitions had on early modern subjects, institutions, material culture, habits of thought as well as literary, social and cultural practices. Different disciplinary perspectives are especially encouraged. Possible topics of study include: Transitional years (eg, 1534, 1558, 1603, 1660, 1707) Celebrating/marking/remembering transition Continuity/discontinuity Succession literature From stage to page From manuscript to print (and vice versa) Generic shifts Shifting author-patron, author-readership relations Progression/relocation/translocation Historical/literary historical constructions of transition The intersection of the residual and the emergent Please send proposals for papers (20mins) and any queries to The deadline for proposals is 31 March.

— 1 year ago
Information (supposedly) doubles every two years…

Information (supposedly) doubles every two years…

— 1 year ago with 7 notes
CFP: Digital Diplomatics

Submission deadline: March 15, 2013

Space-time location of conference: Lutetia, a fashionable center in Franko-Gallia (OK, OK, I mean Paris), November 14-16, 2013

What is Diplomatics in the Digital Environment?

Diplomatics has changed fundamentally in the last few decades due to dramatic developments in information technology. While consolidating itself as an autonomous science with its own centuries-old theory, methodology, analytical processes and tools, focused on research on medieval and early modern legal documents, it has also grown into an interdisciplinary field, expanding its area of inquiry to all kinds of textual traditions, documentary forms and creation processes through the use of sophisticated digital tools. “We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us”– said Marshal McLuhan. This is especially true with regard to diplomatics. The easy reproduction and publication of charters makes large fonds accessible to historical research and gives the opportunity to reconstruct dispersed fonds. Text analysis tools allow researchers to dig deeply into the data in the documents, extracting information on the distribution of phrases or legal concepts, and creating resources for statistical and network analysis of content. The possibility of developing data models beyond the material restrictions of a printed book inspires rethinking the traditional ways of editing charters. The access to huge image collections fosters historical research on the semiotics of documents as visual signs. At the same time, the comparison between documents on traditional media and those born digital has shown that classic diplomatic knowledge can be used to address issues related to documents created, managed and preserved in the digital environment.

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— 1 year ago
#medieval  #digital humanities  #digital history 
Charters Encoding Initiative (CEI)

<A blurb from CEI’s website:>

In April 2004, international scholars met in Munich. Their common purpose was to discuss the possibilities of a standard to encode medieval and early modern charters with XML. They finally built a preliminary working group called “Charters Encoding Initiative” to notify our intention to work continuously together, to spread our proposals in the scientific community and to integrate them into existing standards especially the guidelines of the TEI.

In this website we

— 1 year ago
#medieval  #early modern  #electronic editing 
Crowdsourcing the early modern blogosphere (Newton Key)

<Thanks to Matthew Simmermon-Gomes for the reference. Embarrassed to say I missed this post last year.>

It has been far too long since I posted anything here: the last few months have been exceptionally busy, and once you get out of the rhythm of blogging it’s hard to get back into it. But I thought I should break my silence to link to Newton Key’s draft article on the early modern blogosphere, which you can find an open source peer review version of here.

Newton has been blogging himself over at Early Modern England since 2007, so is well-placed to offer a critical analysis of how early modern blogging has developed over the last decade or so. His argument, which I have a lot of sympathy with, is that blogs about early modern history have lots in common with the ways in which people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries conceived of, produced, shared and engaged with knowledge and information. Whether it’s sharing the ideas of others with commentary, back and forth debate, creative reimagining of texts as they are shared, reused and reworked, or heated debates and flame wars, all of these have their equivalents in early modern print and manuscript cultures.

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— 1 year ago with 2 notes
#early modern  #sociology of knowledge production 
Early Modern Digital Humanities - Panel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 2013

Submission deadline: about March 8, 2013

Space-time location of panel and conference: San Juan, October 24-27, 2013

I am organizing 2-3 panels related to Early Modern Digital Humanities for the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on October 24-27, 2013). Despite its name, the SCSC is really concerned with the whole run of time ca. 1450-1700 or so. Proposals for individual papers of all sorts on this theme are very welcome. We think that there may be enough interest in the early modern historical, literary, art-historical and other communities to put together more than one panel; which would be great. Based on initial discussions, it looks like we may have panels in the following thematic areas:

  • Historical network analysis
  • Digital cartography / geospatial analysis
  • History of the book / history of book collections/libraries
  • Hugo Grotius – citations, textual history, learned networks

We also solicit paper proposals in broader thematic areas relevant to DH such as:

  • reports on progress of or problems in digitization efforts, whether text, image, audio or other (especially perhaps electronic text curation)
  • treatments of meta-topics concerning data, informatics, convergence of knowledge systems or similar which might lend themselves to electronic representation
  • treatments of virtual representations of things early modern, such as buildings, landscapes or sensory patterns

We will also be pitching the panels to journals for a special section on Digital Humanities and Early Modern history…

The submission deadline is March 15, so interested participants should contact me by about March 8. 

Colin F. Wilder

Center for Digital Humanities, Thomas Cooper Library

University of South Carolina

1322 Greene St., Columbia, SC 29208




— 1 year ago
#conferences  #early modern 
The Enlightenment, the OED, and the History of Concepts, with nGrams (James Schmidt via Persistent Enlightenment)

Posted on 

In the fall of 2010, the online Oxford English Dictionary revised its entry for “Enlightenment.” Since 1891 the definition had read as follows:

1. The action of enlightening; the state of being enlightened …. [I]mparting or receiving mental or spiritual light.

2. Sometimes used [after Ger. Aufklärung, Aufklärerei] to designate the spirit and aims of the French philosophers of the 18th c., or of others whom it is intended to associate with them in the implied charge of shallow and pretentious intellectualism, unreasonable contempt for tradition and authority, etc.

For quite some time, admirers of the Enlightenment have had problems with the OED’s definition. As Peter Gay noted, it has the dubious distinction of collecting “most current prejudices in one convenient place” [Peter Gay, The Party of Humanity (Princeton, 1959) 263].

In contrast, the treatment of the Enlightenment in the OED’s new definition is quite well-behaved:

The dominant European intellectual culture in the 18th cent. which typically emphasized freedom of thought and action without reference to religious and other traditional authority, proposed a deistic understanding of the universe, insisted on a rationalist and scientific approach to the understanding of human society, the law, education, the economy, etc., and had as an important aim the development of new theoretical methods and practical reforms for these areas; (also) the period of time during which this climate of thought was dominant.

I had, as they say, a dog in this fight — admittedly, it was a little, yappy one, but a dog nevertheless: back in 2003 I published an article in the Journal of the History of Ideasexamining some of the peculiarities in the OED’s definition and trying to figure out how it got to be the way it was (there’s an open access copy here). The article argued that not only was the definition rather flaky, it had also misquoted one of the three source quotes and misinterpreted another. It got the third quote right, but while a .333 batting average is respectable in baseball, one hopes for something better in a dictionary. In addition to addressing most of my gripes, the revised definition in the online OED is kind enough to refer readers curious about the history of the earlier definition to my JHI article (which means that, at least until the next OED revision, my place in History is secure).

The point of this post is not to gloat (well, not just to gloat) but (1) to say a few things about the new definition, (2) to discuss how much easier it is today to do what I was attempting to do back in 2003 (i.e., seven years before the arrival of the nGram), and (3) to explore some of the implications of my adventures with the OED for the enterprise known as “the history of concepts.” This post will focus mainly on point 2 and offer a few thoughts on point 3. A sequel will address point 1 and have something more on point 3.

Learning to Write Like a Scottish Hegelian

Looking back on how I wound up writing the JHI article in the first place, what strikes me now is how unsystematic I was. While it had been clear for quite some time that a lot was wrong with the OED’s definition, I’d assumed—as I suspect most other readers of the OED assumed — that the definition offered an accurate, if lamentable, reflection of the way in which “enlightenment” was used by its critics during the nineteenth century. Since I was (and remain) interested in eighteenth-century discussions of the question “What is enlightenment?” and their later implications (this blog is an attempt at working through this obsession), I figured that the OED definition might provide some hints on how these discussions might have made their jump from German into English. And because I knew that Hegel was quite interested in these discussions (he’d copied Moses Mendelssohn’s answer to the question into a notebook he kept while in high school and he carried this notebook with him throughout his life), it was encouraging to see that two of the three sources quotes in the OED came from James Hutchison Stirling’s The Secret of Hegel(1865), the first book on Hegel to appear in English —or, at least, as close to English as a Hegel-smitten Scot could produce.

I’d already done some preliminary searching on WordCat and other places, trying to determine when “the Enlightenment” first began to turn up in book titles. The earliest seemed to be  John Grier Hibben’s The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (1910) and its opening pages betrayed what struck me as a good deal of insecurity over whether his readers would be familiar with term he’d used in his title. Within the space of two pages he referred to the period as “the Enlightenment, or Aufklärung,” as the “philosophical century,” as “the age of illumination, or enlightenment,” and, finally,“the age of reason.”  Clearly, here we had a man who was trying to cover all the bases.

Hibben, like Striling, was a Hegelian. He taught at Princeton and went on to become its President (right after Woodrow Wilson) and Princeton had his papers. I spent a couple of hours rummaging through them, which included some of his correspondence with his publisher, hoping to turn up some deep thoughts on the title he had chosen, or at least some indication that initial drafts or proposals might have employed a different title. No such luck. Having struck out with Hibben, I resigned myself to reading Stirling’s Secret of Hegel (and here is the place to say that this is not something I’d recommend).  When I did, I was surprised to see that the quotes the OED extracted from the book weren’t doing what the OED said they were doing. He used “enlightenment” not to refer to a particular historical period (i.e., the second of the old OED’s two definitions) but, instead, in something close to the OED’s first definition. Odder still, when he wanted to talk about what we would call “the Enlightenment,” he either retained the German Aufklärung or, in a few cases, employed the term “Illumination.”

At this point, I settled on something approximating a plan of attack:  to figure out when the English stopped using Aufklärung to refer to “the Enlightenment” and shifted over to using “the Enlightenment,” what I needed to find was a place where an English speaker would be forced to produce a word that did what Germans did when they used Aufklärung in the way that Hegel had started using it in his Berlin lectures on the philosophy of history and the history of philosophy (for any Hegel fans out there, I don’t think the section in thePhenomenology on die Aufklärung is about “the Enlightenment,” but let’s leave that for another time). I figured that the most obvious places to find this would be in translations of works by Hegel and histories of German philosophy. Fortunately, there weren’t that many of them and it was simple enough to figure out where the German term would appear in the text that was being translated.  It was while attempting to track down early English translations of German philosophical texts, that I became aware of the existence of theGerman Museum, a short-lived British periodical that translated a remarkable amount of late eighteenth-century Enlightenment texts from German into English, among them, a translation of Moses Mendelssohn’s answer to the question “What is enlightenment?”.  Fortunately, the rare book room at Harvard owned one of the few surviving copies of the journal and working my way through the journal confirmed my growing  suspicion that the preferred translation for Aufklärung appeared to be “mental illumination.” The subsequent fleshing out of my argument was greatly aided by David Armitage’s suggestion that I might want to spend some time poking around in the Anti-Jacobin Review to see what terms were being thrown around there and by Darrin McMahon’s lesson on the jargon used by French anti-philosophes.

It was on the basis of this shaky foundation that I wrote an article maintaining that it was not until sometime around the close of the nineteenth century that the term “Enlightenment” came into use in English as a way of referring to a discrete historical period. I figured that if I was wrong, someone would let me know and I consoled myself with the thought that I was doing what Karl Popper said we ought to do: make bold conjectures and see if anyone shoots them down.  So I shipped the article off to the JHI, waited a year or so while they reviewed it and, after they’d signed off on it, I forwarded a copy of it to the OED.  I eventually received an email letting me know that they were on the case.

Enter the nGram

Ten years later all of this would have been so much easier. For one thing, Google’s long march through the libraries means that a host of nineteenth-century texts, including theGerman Museum were now available online, which means that I can now read this strange periodical on my iPad while commuting into my office.  (Pause for a moment to reflect on how strange and wonderful this is).  And then, in the winter of 2011, Google said “let there be nGrams!” and, behold, there were nGrams. And they were good — or at least good enough to do a job like the one I was trying to do … and do it very quickly.

Thanks to the happy accident that English, unlike German, does not necessarily precede its nouns with articles and gives writers the option of capitalizing or not capitalizing those nouns, all I would have needed to do is plug “the Enlightenment,” “the Illumination,” and (since Stirling credited himself with having introduced a German term into English) “Aufklärung” into the search fields and hit the search button. Out would pop things like this:

Aufklärung,Ill, and Enl

The nGram seems to lend support to my rash conjecture. There are very few uses of “the Enlightenment” until after the turn of the twentieth century (note the little bump that coincides with the publication of Hibbins’ book),  And then the ascent begins. The flat lines for “the Illumination” is a bit more surprising: I would have expected it would be popping up more often than it does (the sequel to this post will explain why that expectation is silly). Probing inside the results led me, momentarily, to think that I’d manage to refute my own thesis: the nGram gives a link to an 1822 translation of Eucken’s history of philosophy, which used “the Enlightenment” in precisely the way that I insisted it wouldn’t be used until the twentieth century. But it turns out that Google’s metadata was faulty: the publication date was, in fact, 1922. Faulty metadata also accounts for some of the scattered appearances of Aufklärung that the nGram picks up: it appears that Google classified certain German publications as “English books.”

The History of Concepts in the Age of Digital Reproducibility

So (with apologies to Walter Benjamin), what are the implications of my adventures for work on the “history of concepts” in the age of digital reproducibility?

First, and, most obviously, things have gotten a lot easier.  Imperfect though the nGram may be, it would be crazy not to run a few of them before setting out on the sort of research that I did.

Second, the ease with which nGrams can be thrown together forces some reflection on  what the “history of concepts” allegedly involves. Reinhart Koselleck once insisted that a “history of concepts” should not be confused with a “history of words,” since a concept can be designated by any number of different words [see Koselleck, Futures Past 85-6]. For example, the entry on “Aufklärung” in Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe deals with “Age of Reason” as well as “Enlightenment.”  Koselleck might want to argue that while the OED got the history of the word “enlightenment” wrong, this error is of little importance for the historian of concepts (though it surely did matter to the OED, which is very much in the business of tracing the history of words). Koselleck might go on to argue that, while Stirling did not use the word “enlightenment” to designate the concept that we have come to designate as “the Enlightenment,” he had another word that did more or less the same job: “illumination.” Once we make the necessary translations, it should be clear enough what Stirling was up to.

My difficulties with this argument center on the “more or less.” For, in an important way, this interpretation fails to capture what Stirling was doing: it pays insufficient attention to the degree to which the choice of one word rather than another sometimes matters. Quentin Skinner has rightly (at least in my view) emphasized that the best evidence that “a group or society has entered into the self-conscious possession of a new concept is that a corresponding vocabulary has been developed, a vocabulary that can then be used to pick out and discuss the concept in question with consistency” [see Skinner, Visions of PoliticsI:160]. I suspect that the reverse might also be the case. The plethora of alternative terms (“Aufklärung,” “Illumination,” “Age of Reason”) that Stirling and others employed to designate what we now call “the Enlightenment” suggests that he might not have understood the period in the quite the same way as we do. And his vacillation about what to call this thing that had happened (or might still be happening) is very much in keeping with the patterns of usage that prevailed during the period whose grip he was hoping to escape. Late eighteenth-century texts manifest an obsessive concern that certain terms have been misused, a conviction that certain words can no longer be employed in the way in which the authors of theses texts would like to use them, and a zeal for tracing connections between the different words that are in play. It is as if an entire vocabulary has become suspect.

More on the implications of such suspicions next time.

— 1 year ago with 2 notes
#early modern  #Text Mining 
Undulatus asperatus (“roughened or agitated waves”) is a new type of cloud formation proposed in 2009. It will be the first cloud formation added since cirrus intortus in 1951 to the International Cloud Atlas of the World Meteorological Organization. (cracked)

Undulatus asperatus (“roughened or agitated waves”) is a new type of cloud formation proposed in 2009. It will be the first cloud formation added since cirrus intortus in 1951 to the International Cloud Atlas of the World Meteorological Organization. (cracked)

(via acidburn42)

— 1 year ago with 1020 notes
#earth sky mortals divinities