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Nov 06 2010

I’m going to start using this blog to work through some issues in finding useful applications for digital history. (Interesting applications? Applications at all?)

Right now, that means trying to figure out how to use large amounts of textual data to draw conclusions or refine questions. I currently have the Internet Archive’s OCRed text files for about 30,000 books by large American publishers from 1830 to 1920. I’ve done this partly to help with my own research, and partly to try a different way of thinking about history and the texts we read.

I’m putting it online to help convince one or two people (I’m looking at you, Henry) that this sort of exploration is important for research and teaching. Not necessarily that it’s research itself; I’m still unimpressed by the conclusions I’m getting out of it. But at least that any historian looking at the meanings of words (which is most of us, at least around here) should make some stab at using the texts of books we haven’t read. And if I can get some good graphics out of it, maybe we can start to think about how this might be useful in teaching, particularly students who respond better to data than stories.

Anyhow, on with it.