Writing about Personal Experiences of Humanitarianism
exclude previous criminal convictions. They are also subject to annual appraisal and regular revalidation to ensure their skills and behaviour are satisfactory.
( 2019 ), ‘The Naive Republic of Aid: Grassroots Exceptionalism in Humanitarian Memoir’ , in
(eds), Global Humanitarianism and Media Culture ( Manchester : Manchester University Press ), pp.
83 – 102 , www.manchesteropenhive.com/view/9781526117304/9781526117304.00012.xml (accessed 6 July 2021 ).
This book offers a practical introduction to digital history with a focus on working with text. It will benefit anyone who is considering carrying out research in history that has a digital or data element and will also be of interest to researchers in related fields within digital humanities, such as literary or classical studies. It offers advice on the scoping of a project, evaluation of existing digital history resources, a detailed introduction on how to work with large text resources, how to manage digital data and how to approach data visualisation. After placing digital history in its historiographical context and discussing the importance of understanding the history of the subject, this guide covers the life-cycle of a digital project from conception to digital outputs. It assumes no prior knowledge of digital techniques and shows you how much you can do without writing any code. It will give you the skills to use common formats such as plain text and XML with confidence. A key message of the book is that data preparation is a central part of most digital history projects, but that work becomes much easier and faster with a few essential tools.
In the last chapter we had a close look at a transcription of Balls Pond Road in an unstructured format. We were able to differentiate some features of the text with regular expressions, but things like cross streets and map references added noise to the data that was cumbersome to deal with. In this chapter we will explore the same data structured in the format XML and see what advantages that brings, and what difficulties remain.
As a historian, the format of structured data you are likeliest to come across is XML, because it is well suited to
-readable text in plain text format
Machine-readable text in XML format
If we have done our work well, we have already produced many digital assets that are of interest not only to other academics but also to a much broader community, from family historians to the person researching the history of their house, from the local borough council to the researcher in Australia trying to track down the movements of a particular nineteenth-century individual. Managing the digital material we have produced is an added challenge – another thing to consider and learn how to do. But
XML files, but a decision was taken to make those files openly available and downloadable. 8 We will cover working with XML in Chapter 5 .
Historians and other humanities researchers were quick to take advantage of digital Hansard, and a number of new research projects were funded to exploit the potential of this rich dataset. The online interface developed by the parliamentary team was fairly rudimentary, but the openness of the data meant that researchers could download it, manipulate and enhance it, and then make the enhanced data available for reuse and
own data before opening it in Excel. This is because your data is unlikely to have tabs in it: the separator should ideally be something which is not used for anything else in the file. Commas in historical texts are, of course, highly likely to be used as ordinary commas. As you will have seen, the Post Office listings may contain multiple commas per line.
If we want to do some calculations in Excel on the data we have been working on, how might you go about it? We can use grep to extract some text from a collection of XML files, add tabs using regex and paste
text in Chapter 5 . We will show that plain text is harder to deal with, although perhaps easier to get hold of, and that structured text is preferable when available, even if at first glance its appearance may be more forbidding. For structured text we concentrate on XML (Extensible Markup Language), but the approaches we take should transfer reasonably easily to other formats.
Chapter 6 , ‘Caring for your digital history project’, covers the practicalities of managing your data and sharing it effectively. Our section on research data management spends a fair
11 ‘The EU Treaty paves the way for a more effective EU which can serve the
needs of Europe’, Brian Lenihan, Minister for Finance, Bray, 21 April 2008,
12 ‘EU summits: Supplementary questions’, Dáil Debates, 656(4), http://
can be ready by any text editor , and text that can only be read by specific software, such as Microsoft Word or Pages on a Mac. Compared to these latter programs, text editors look a bit different, seeming comparatively unadorned because they omit typographic features such as font changes.
Common file formats
comma-separated or tab-separated values