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A beginner’s guide to working with text as data

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.

Jonathan Blaney, Sarah Milligan, Marty Steer, and Jane Winters

As we noted in the Introduction, nothing dates as quickly as predictions about the future. Consequently, we will focus here on identifying general directions of travel rather than new tools, technologies and methods. In general, we see the future of digital history as one of gradual evolution and embedding rather than of revolution and disruption. Digital methods will be more widely adopted as we gain greater access to more digital primary sources, and well-established digital tools are likely to become easier to use for a large number of researchers. This may

in Doing digital history
Jonathan Blaney, Sarah Milligan, Marty Steer, and Jane Winters

INTRODUCTION It is a difficult task, doomed in advance, to say in a few words what has really changed in our area of study, and especially how and why that change took place. 1 There are a number of strands we have to try to weave together in describing the context and development of digital history. We will start by discussing the place of digital history within the broader context of digital humanities, and then within the context of the development of technology in the post-war period. We will move on to discussing the effect of the digital on

in Doing digital history
Jonathan Blaney, Sarah Milligan, Marty Steer, and Jane Winters

possibilities if work continued. As the project becomes more complex and the outputs more diverse, so we need to become more careful about managing all of this material effectively. The illustrative work we have done already on the Post Office directory has generated about a thousand files, representing different stages of the work, but a genuine digital history project could easily involve orders of magnitude more files and more complexity. Our goal may well be to publish findings in some form, and to work rigorously through this process we will need to have everything

in Doing digital history
Abstract only
Family histories of Irish emigrants in Britain, 1820–1920
Author: John Herson

This book is unique in adopting a family history approach to Irish migration in nineteenth century Britain. Historians of the Irish in Britain have almost totally ignored the family dimension, but this study shows that the family was central to Irish peoples’ lives and experiences. It was the major factor influencing the life choices and identity of the migrants and their descendants. The book documents for the first time a representative sample of Irish immigrant families and uses the techniques of family and digital history to explore their long-term fate. To do this it examines the Irish in Stafford in the West Midlands, a town that was a microcosm of the broader Irish experience in England.

Central to the book is a unique body of evidence about the lives of ordinary families. They were united by their Irish ethnicity and by living in the same town, but there the similarity ended. In the long term they diverged in different directions. Many families integrated into the local population, but others ultimately moved away whilst some simply died out. The case studies explore the reasons why the fate of these families proved to be so varied.

The book reveals a fascinating picture of family life and gender relations in nineteenth-century England. Its provocative conclusions will stimulate debate amongst scholars of Irish history, genealogists, historians of the family and social historians generally. The book also offers some valuable historical parallels to the lives of contemporary immigrant families in Britain.

Four Conversations with Canadian Communications Officers
Dominique Marshall

are of use for the individuals they serve’: teachers and community workers. Note on the Visual Communication of Histories of Humanitarian Agencies At many points in these conversations, the interests of Communications Officers and historians of visual communications came together. Sara Falconer recalled how, in 2015, ‘because the history of the values and principles of the Red Cross is such an important part of our brand’, she participated in the ‘Canadian Red Cross Digital History Project’ which asked Canadians to share ‘their own Red Cross artifacts or

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Jonathan Blaney, Sarah Milligan, Marty Steer, and Jane Winters

(women are given gendered titles, such as ‘Mrs’ in the directory, whereas men generally have no titles). All this becomes feasible once we have the text in a machine-readable form, but there is still work to be done. SCANNING THE DIRECTORY The first stage in any digital history project that focuses on textual material is to acquire or create a machine-readable version of the data. By machine-readable we mean that text-based software can understand it as text . For example, a photograph of a page of text might be a digital object readable by image software such

in Doing digital history
Jonathan Blaney, Sarah Milligan, Marty Steer, and Jane Winters

INTRODUCTION This book is concerned with digital history, and that necessarily means working with primary sources that are available in digital form. ‘Digital’, however, encompasses a large and diverse range of materials. The most obvious distinction the historian faces is that between sources which have been digitised from a physical original, for example a thirteenth-century manuscript or a nineteenth-century newspaper, and sources which are described as ‘born digital’, such as emails, Word documents or web pages. Once your source is available in machine

in Doing digital history
Abstract only
Jonathan Blaney, Sarah Milligan, Marty Steer, and Jane Winters

great deal without programming, by leveraging the work of others. Learning to program is interesting and useful but it is not essential to doing digital history and many digital historians choose not to. There are certainly things that can only be done with coding but we have purposely omitted all such things. We hope you will be surprised by the power and flexibility of the approaches we show you. We have deliberately chosen to focus almost entirely on tools which have been used for decades and which we expect to continue to be used for many more years. They are

in Doing digital history
A new approach
John Herson

The book opens by arguing that a family history approach can throw new light on important issues relating to Irish migration to Victorian Britain, notably about Irish family lives, the long-term fate of immigrants and their descendants, as well as the significance of Irish ethnicity, gender, identity, locality and the Irish diaspora.

The chapter reviews conceptual approaches to studying the history of families. Three research questions are discussed – identifying how families functioned in terms of family strategy and relationships, the specific impact of migration on families and how the family related to its wider social and economic context.

Stafford’s value as a case study location is outlined and the methodology and sources are discussed. The work uses collective family biography or ‘prosopography’. The database at the heart of the project is described and the varied sources are reviewed. Interviews and evidence from descendants have been combined with digital history and documentary sources to construct the genealogies of settled families, narratives of their history and an assessment of the factors that determined their fates.

in Divergent paths