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From Archives to Servers: How the Internet has Transformed Historical Scholarship

With Professor Ian Milligan
28 Apr 2021
With Professor Ian Milligan

Over the last twenty years, the internet and the web have profoundly transformed historical research. Historians make their research queries on Google, ProQuest, and HathiTrust. Historical scholarship, carried out by keyword searches across millions of documents, is shaped by technology and algorithms that historians rarely understand. This is lamentable: while historians worked closely with technologists, librarians, and archivists in the 1970s and 1980s around new forms of data, historians turned away from technology in the 1990s just as networked communication was fundamentally beginning to rework both the production and access of historical knowledge. In this talk, I explore the last quarter century of engagement between historians and the internet, arguing that our entire profession has been profoundly shaped by networked communication. The digital humanities and digital history cannot be seen as niche undertakings: rather, we have much to gain by thinking of all historians as digital now.

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