In Defense of Finding Things in Archives

Over the past several months, and probably before that, several historians have been flayed on social media for making claims like “I found this forgotten thing in the archive,” and stories about their finds criticized for calling their work “discovery.” Scholars have (rightly) called out these stories as erasing the work of the archivists in those archives. But these excoriations are often accompanied by calls for all researchers to stop saying they’ve discovered things in…

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A 21st Century Barbary War

When Thomas Jefferson sent a small naval squadron to the Mediterranean in 1801, he intended to intimidate the Barbary regencies into backing down from their claims of tribute in exchange for commercial freedom in the Mediterranean. Negotiations with the Barbary states hadn’t worked over the previous 15 years of American attempts, and the newly built navy was meant to show the world that America would take its place in the world economy by force. Algiers…

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Wiggly Tales: A Random Tale Generator

[This semester I’m taking Humanities Data Analysis with Professor Ben Schmidt. One of our tasks for this week was to build a random-walk generator using 3-grams. Here’s my quick writeup of my generator cross-posted from our course blog.] We’ve been reading a lot of fairy tales around my house recently, so I wanted to see how well-spun of a tale I could create by walking randomly through a collection of fairy tales. I selected four fairy-tale…

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Geography in the American Quasi-War with France

After an AHA in which I heard a lot about how digital history needs to be about results as well as methodology, I decided to write up a post about the results I gained from mapping the Quasi-War. Special h/t to Cameron Blevins and Yoni Appelbaum for inspiring me to write about my research. I’m also using Yoni’s hyperlink-style citations. For my seminar in Empires and Colonialism this past semester, I wrote about the United States’ Quasi-War with…

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Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, honoring a woman who is often credited with being the first computer programmer because of her work programming for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine in the 1840s. The day honors Ada and all women who are involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I am not a woman in a STEM field, not really. But I am celebrating Ada Lovelace Day today because I am the humanities scholar I am through…

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Boston Maps Project After One Semester

The major work on the Boston Maps Project for the semester is wrapping up this week. This semester, we ended up with 108 users (about 100 students) who contributed to 19 maps and over 400 annotations on our Omeka site. Review: The Process Throughout the semester, I attended an average of three full class periods for each of the five classes that participated heavily in the project. Some of these meetings were scheduled in advance;…

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Harsh Words for a War (in 1812)

The War of 1812 had been going on for about six months when this list was published by the Federal Republican (reprinted in the Salem Gazette, December 29, 1812, which is where I found it). If this piece is no less vitriolic than some political rhetoric of the twenty-first century, at least it is much more succinct. Reasons, not long, for believing the War will be Short. 1st. Because the army lacks men. 2d. Because the…

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Concord Hymn Glosa

This Patriots’ Day week, we mourn for the victims of the explosions in Boston. I’m not a native Bostonian, but I’m a Bostonian now: my emotions have fluctuated between deep sorrow and deep anger that someone would do this to my city, to my fellow Bostonians. I’m so thankful for our police officers, firefighters, National Guard, and all the first responders. To celebrate the patriots of Massachusetts, from minute men in 1775 to first responders…

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