As long as new preservation technologies and computing machines have been developed, the question of their utility and uptake in historical research practices has been debated. Yet, the very fact that historical knowledge production has always been affected by new and emerging technologies is often forgotten. Similarly, the fact that key epistemological and methodological questions in what we now call ‘digital history’ were already debated decades ago by earlier generations of computing historians (analog and digital) is often overlooked. There is a lack of transmission of accumulated knowledge from the past and it sometimes seems as if every new generation of historians rediscovers the promise of ‘digital history’, with all of its attending hopes, visions and ambitions for reinventing and reshaping historical research.
To fill this gap, this paper will explore what a history of digital history might look like. It will do so by focusing on hybridity as a key characteristic of historical research. Hybridity, seen as some form of integrating newly emerging tools, technologies, materials, and/or practices in historical research, has a long history that predates the advent of computers. In my paper I will map and qualify that history according to the main phases of historical research. The paper will conclude by outlining what groundwork is necessary to explore digital history’s forgotten roots: a basic overview of the field’s different spatio-temporal and ideological trajectories and recreation of the networks of computing historians in the pre-PC and early PC period.