Digital history & historiography

Digital History als ‚experimental space‘: Handels- und Transportnetzwerke in Gallien und Germanien sowie die Transportverbindung zwischen Mosel und Saône

This dissertation consists of two parts. In the first part, the focus lies on the study of trade and transport networks in the Gaulish and German provinces during the Roman Empire based on inscriptions. Different approaches are used to tackle this topic, e.g. networks between different people and families, organisations and cities. The results show that networks between merchants or merchant families likely existed with the aim of securing and improving one’s own position in the business world. The networks between organisations show the close connection of these organisations among themselves and to the social and political elite. The spatial networks emphasize the important role of Lyon and show long-range connections of the merchants. The second part focuses on the reconstruction of the roman road between upper Saône and Moselle with the help of ancient, medieval and modern sources as well as digital methods like least cost path analysis. The results show that the road between Corre, Escles and Portieux is the most likely candidate, but it is also possible that other options existed. The dissertation is also part of the Doctoral Doctoral Training Unit ‚Digital History & Hermeneutics‘. One of the basic ideas of the DTU was a critical reflection on the epistemological and methodological challenges of doing historical research in the digital age and a critical and self-reflexive use of these new digital tools and technologies. Especially during the first part of the study, it became evident, that the fragmented nature of the sources leads to several problems when using the new digital methods and tools. This applies even more to Ancient History. The dealing with these problems became another important aspect of the dissertation. There is no point in denying the chances the digital turn and that it will change today’s academia landscape. They can be useful in historic research, but at the same time, they are still a journey into the unknown. It is of the utmost importance to keep a critical mindset towards the new developments, methods and tools. Detailed knowledge of the sources and especially their shortcomings is key. This also applies to their communication and to the documentation of the research process since digital methods can quickly produce impressive-looking results. Furthermore, not only methodological knowledge is required but, especially and probably even more importantly, methodological awareness.

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