Digital Tools and Methods for Historical Research
This paper contains sections on: Tools and Web Resources; Database Structures; Data Mining; Quantitative Methods; Visualization; and Geographical Information Systems.
he objective of this working paper is to provide some examples of the type and range of digital tools (and associated methods) that might profitably be used by researchers working in the discipline of History. In keeping with the remit of the Methods Network - one of the objectives of which is to promote the dissemination of knowledge about ICT related tools and methods across subject boundaries - some reference will also be made to techniques and tools normally associated with other disciplines which clearly have applications to historical research.
On a theoretical map of arts and humanities subject areas where disciplines could be positioned to try and demonstrate overlap and methodological common ground, there would be a strong case for placing the discipline of History squarely in the centre of the map, providing as it does a chronological backbone for all areas of research, as diverse as musicology, practice-based art, theology, literary studies and so forth. In terms of immediate adjacency, the borders of what might be considered ‘historical research’ would blur imperceptibly with a number of neighbouring subject areas: archaeology, classical studies, sociology and art history for instance; all of which have tools and techniques associated with them which are (or potentially could be) of use to historians. Appropriated techniques from computing and information science such as data mining and e-Science related methods are also increasingly coming to the attention of those seeking to explore new methods of engaging with research questions - as are techniques associated with geographical mapping and information systems - so it is clear that the scope for employing a variety of technical methods is very broad.
This paper is one of nine working papers written for the AHRC ICT Methods Network. The Methods Network Working Papers form part of the range of information and support materials that have been assembled to assist arts and humanities researchers with the task of acquiring knowledge about ICT tools and methods. The papers focus on various different disciplines but also highlight where tools and methods can be of benefit to multiple subject areas.
It is anticipated that these documents may serve a number of non-exclusive functions:
- To provide a foundation document to provoke discussion and value-added commentary;
- As reference documents that foreground links and references to other material;
- As an introductory resource for researchers who are new to digital developments in a particular subject area;
- As a knowledge-gathering exercise to assist the Methods Network with event organisation and community-building activities.