Digital history & historiography

Beyond Close and Distant Reading: Strategies for the radical contextualization of historical text

29 May 2019

Beyond Close and Distant Reading: Strategies for the radical contextualization of historical text
Lecture by Tim Hitchcock, Professor of Digital History, University of Sussex. The event is part of the C²DH lecture series 'New Horizons: Confronting the Digital Turn in the Humanities'.

In an age of hyper-abundance, to search is to find. The long research journey downwards through a catalogue and into an archive has been replaced by an algorithm ensuring the first page of results is 'good enough'. This presentation argues that despite the claim, it is simply not so; it is not 'good enough'.  While current systems of search and discovery effectively hide and distort the context of research data, good scholarship demands a dialogue between data and its source.  By demonstrating how a 'macroscope' can be used to practise distant and close readings of large datasets such as the Old Bailey Online, and library and archival catalogues, it suggests that we can re-imagine search, discovery and research, to provide a new form of 'radical contextualisation'.  It argues that digital history requires more than a different set of tools; it also requires a different approach to representing the evolving infrastructure.



Tim Hitchcock is Professor of Digital History at the University of Sussex.  With Robert Shoemaker and others, he is responsible for a series of websites giving direct and searchable access to some 35 billion words of primary sources reflecting the social history of Britain, including: The Old Bailey Online,  London Lives, Connected Histories, Locating London’s Past, and The Digital Panopticon.

With degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and Oxford University, he has written or edited eleven books on the histories of eighteenth-century poverty, street life, sexuality and masculinity; and published across the disciplines of history, art history, the digital humanities, statistics, economics and legal studies.  His most recent books include 'Down and Out in Eighteenth-Century London' (Hambledon and London, 2004) and with Robert Shoemaker, 'London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690-1800' (CUP, 2015).  He is currently co-director of the Sussex Humanities Lab, and with Ben Jackson is working on the development of a ‘macroscope’ for use with library and archival catalogues.



Wednesday, 29 May 2019

16.00 - 17.30

followed by a drinks reception


Maison des Sciences humaines - Black Box


Belval Campus
11, Porte des Sciences
L-4366 Esch-sur-Alzette


With the kind support of


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