Civil War Navies Bookworm

If you read my last post, you know that this semester I engaged in building a Bookworm using a government document collection. My professor challenged me to try my system for parsing the documents on a different, larger collection of government documents. The collection I chose to work with is the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. My Barbary Bookworm took me all semester to build; this Civil War navies Bookworm took me…

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Text Analysis on the Documents of the Barbary Wars

This past semester, I took a graduate seminar in Humanities Data Analysis, taught by Professor Ben Schmidt. This post describes my final project. Stay tuned for more fun Bookworm stuff in the next few days (part 2 on Civil War Navies Bookworm is here).   In the 1920s, the United States government decided to create document collections for several of its early naval wars: the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary Wars, and the Civil War…

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Digital History and Naval History: Ships in the Night

  Ships that pass in the night and speak each other in passing; Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence. —Henry Wadworth Longfellow This month I attended two very different professional conferences. The first, THATCamp CHNM (aka THATCamp Prime), is so unlike normal conferences that it’s billed…

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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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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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DigiWriMo Wrap-Up

Today’s the last day of November. Advent starts in two days; classes end in four days (for me, anyhow); and today DigiWriMo is ending. So, what was DigiWriMo like for me? Maybe I should start with how I did on my goals. Goal #1: Completed. All officer bios on Preble’s Boys are completed. Goal #2: Mostly completed. In the last few days, I did slack off. Bad Abby. But I got a fair number up.…

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DigiWriMo Halftime Report

Today is November 15, the halfway mark in DigiWriMo/AcWriMo. It’s time to check in and see how my DigiWriMo goals are progressing. Here are the goals: 1. Write one officer bio every day for the first 17 days, taking off Sundays. I’m happy to report that I’m right on target. Today, I completed the last of my officer bios: Stephen Decatur.¬† 2. Write one or two ship bios for the remaining days. (Take Thanksgiving Day…

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The Lessons of a Bad Network Graph

Spurred by our DH reading group at Northeastern, as well as my general tendency to jump into things before really knowing what I’m doing, I decided a few weeks ago to download Gephi and see what sort of rudimentary networks I could create. I’d been cataloging the service record of each of my Preble’s Boys officers, setting up the chart so that I could see concurrent service. I started out just looking to see whether…

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