History in the Age of Abundance: Skills, Tools, and Methods for the 21st-Century Historian

Jan 23, 2020 12:00 PM — 2:00 PM
Historian’s Craft Lecture Series, York University
Vari Hall 2183 (History Department Common Room)

Slides (PDF) available for download here.

The rise of the Web as a primary source will have deep implications for historians. It will affect our research — how we write and think about the past — and it will change how humanists and social scientists make sense of culture at scale. Scholars are entering an era when there will be more information than ever, left behind by people who rarely entered the historical record before. Web archives, repositories of archived websites dating back to 1996, will fundamentally transform scholarship, requiring a move towards computational methodologies and the digital humanities.

The talk explores this dramatic shift — and what is to be done about it — by arguing that historians will have to understand how to work with textual (and other) data at scale. Historians will soon need to become familiar, at the very least, with NLP techniques. This is not just a marginal problem: the need to explore the big data of the Web (and other digitized repositories) strikes to the core of our discipline.