History seminars at the IHR

Digital History

Convenors: Seth Denbo (American Historical Association), Matthew Phillpott (IHR), Richard Deswarte (UEA), Beth Hartland (KCL), Tim Hitchcock (Sussex), Peter Webster (British Library), Charlotte Tupman (KCL), and James Baker (British Library), Adam Crymble (Hertfordshire)

For information and enquiries, please contact: Matt Phillpott on: matt.phillpott@sas.ac.uk

Venue: John S Cohen Room 203, 2nd floor, IHR, North block, Senate House

Time: Tuesdays, 5.15 pm

Seminars are normally streamed live online. See the seminar blog for info. To keep in touch, follow us on Twitter (@IHRDigHist) or at the hashtag #dhist.

Some podcasts from this seminar are available online

Spring Term 2015
DateSeminar details
24 February Tracking the Emergence of New Words across Time and Space

Jack Grieve (Aston)

Very little is known about how new words spread in language. New words are regularly identified by lexicographers, linguists, and the news media, but until recently we have not had access to sufficiently large geo-coded and time-stamped datasets that would allow for the detailed analysis of the geographical diffusion of lexical items in real time. However, with the rise of social media and smart phones, it is now possible to compile very large corpora that meet these requirements, allowing for new words to be identified and mapped across time and space and for the first time. In this presentation, I identify numerous newly emerging words based on a multi-billion word corpus of American tweets from 2013-2014 and map their geographical spread across the United States.


10 March Lost Visions: retrieving the visual element of printed books

Julia Thomas, Nicky Lloyd and Ian Harvey (Cardiff)

Despite the mass digitization of books, illustrations have remained more or less invisible. As an aesthetic form, illustration is conventionally positioned at the bottom of a hierarchy that places painting and sculpture at the top. The hybridity or bimediality of illustration is also problematic, the genre having fallen between the cracks of literary studies and art history. In a digital context, illustration has fared no better: new technologies can aid the editing of a literary text far more successfully than they can deal with the images that accompany it.

This paper focuses on the challenges and the implications of an AHRC-funded Big Data project that will make searchable online over a million book illustrations from the British Library’s collections. The images span the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, cover a variety of reproductive techniques (including etching, wood engraving, lithography and photography), and are taken from around 68,000 works of literature, history, geography and philosophy.

The paper identifies issues relating to the improvement of bibliographic metadata and the analysis of the iconographic features of the images, which impact on our understanding of ‘the image’ in Digital Humanities and the negotiation of Big Data more generally. The work undertaken as part of the Lost Visions project allows for the further development of Illustration Studies, repositioning visual culture in the largely text-based process of digitisation and problematising modes of textual production.


24 March Mining the History of Medicine Project (Title TBC)

Sophia Ananiadou (Manchester University)


Summer Term 2015
DateSeminar details
12 May A Pilot Historical Thesaurus of Scots (Title TBC)

Susan Rennie (Glasgow)


26 May SketchUp Project (Title TBC)

Matthew Nicholls (Reading)


9 June A Big Data History of Music Project (title TBC)

Stephen Rose (RHUL)


23 June ChartEX Traces Through Time (title TBC)

Sarah Rees-Jones (York) and Sonja Ranade (The National Archives)

This is a joint session with the Archives and Society seminar