A Graph of Diplomatic Wrangling in Algiers

When the United States became independent after the American Revolution, it had to struggle to protect its seaborne commerce in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Americans had to rely on the goodwill of France, Portugal, and other European powers because the United States lacked the naval power necessary to protect its own shipping. Historical Background  Americans had to negotiate with the Barbary states to secure the release of hostages, taken by Barbary corsairs, and to decide…

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Boston-Area Days of DH Wrap-up

[cross-posted to HASTAC.org] Now that it’s been almost a month since the Boston-Area Days of DH, I figured I’d better write a wrap-up of the conference. It was my very great pleasure to help Prof. Ryan Cordell organize the conference, and along the way I learned a lot about DH and about scholarly work in general (and about scheduling and organization and making sure the coffee gets to the right place…). The Boston-Area Days of…

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Developing High- and Low-Tech Digital Competencies

Last week, Ben Schmidt gave a talk at Northeastern, part of which was about developing technical competency in digital methods. This semester, I’ve had the chance to develop my technical competency in working with data, mostly by jumping in with both feet and flailing around in all directions. The task I was given in the NULab has allowed me to play with several different digital methods. The base project was this: turn strings such as…

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Space Matters

[Originally posted to the course blog for Doing Digital Humanities, Prof. Ryan Cordell.] In addition to our reading for class about mapping, several blog posts about mapping and GIS have been in my RSS feed reader this week. All these have combined to make me think more critically about space and its representations in historical research and presentation. As Jo Guldi points out, the spatial turn in history occurred as early as the modern study of history.…

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Documenting Change over Time with Simile Timeline

The NULab project that I’m working on right now involves documenting connections between newspapers in the nineteenth-century United States. So far, my work has been researching the history of each individual newspaper. It’s been an enlightening and entertaining process. (If you’re interested in one of the most entertaining stories I discovered, check out my Omeka exhibit for my digital humanities class.) We’re pulling data from the Chronicling America website at the Library of Congress. The…

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Witticism from the Holmes County Republican

As part of my work at the NULab, I’ve been researching newspapers from the mid-nineteenth century. This little tidbit from a newspaper in Millersburg, OH, caught my eye and I thought I’d share. P.S. If you know anything about Millersburg in the 1850s, or the Holmes County Republican or Holmes County Farmer, please contact me. I would like to know more about this town’s news. About Girls’ Names. If you are a very precise man…

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The Message of the Historical Medium

[This post was written for my graduate class, “Doing Digital Humanities,” and originally posted on that course’s blog.] Literary scholars and creative writers spend quite a bit of time thinking about the medium in which they work. Historians tend to think about such things less, since literary theory often doesn’t work well with historical inquiry. Serious historical scholarship is almost always created in a standard medium: the monograph. Reading Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium Is the…

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High Seas Trader: Games and Maritime History

Using video or computer games as pedagogical tools has always been a concept that I’ve harbored deep skepticism about. Perhaps it’s the old fogey in me that wants to say, “If it’s not hard work, it’s not learning!” History is also more complicated than one person’s ability to control it. Thus, old games like Oregon Trail, though highly enjoyable for indoor recess, teach that when you’re faced with dysentery, for instance, your only two options…

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Database of Officers of the Line

Becoming an officer of the line in the navy is a bit like getting on the tenure track in academia. Not all officers are created equal–officers such as pursers, sailing masters, and chaplains were classified as officers and received the preferential treatment given to officers. But they could never be captains–they were not in line for those sorts of promotions. Data The Naval Historical Center has made lists available of the officers of the navy…

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2012: Year in Review

Today is my 27th birthday. This year has been a mixture of continuities and new things, sometimes both at once. I’d like to record just a few of the highlights of my year. 1. Starting my PhD at Northeastern University. It has been great to be back in school. I’ve been out of school for three years, so it felt a little strange at first, but I got over the awkward feelings pretty quickly. Taking…

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