Designing databases for historical research (free course)

This free module provides an overview of important concepts both in terms of the historical data that might be used in databases and in terms of the design process. The module takes the form of a handbook broken down into chapter headings.

Course Details

This free module provides an introduction to designing databases for use in historical research.  Through the use of a handbook, divided into chapters, it provides an overview of important concepts – both historical in nature and in terms of database design – that the historian will need to consider before embarking upon designing a database.  The module also provides a number of starting points for overcoming certain design problems that specifically affect historians when they come to wrestle their sources into a database.

The module was written by Dr Mark Merry. It acts as preliminary reading for the IHR's Databases for Historians face-to-face course, but can also be read on its own as an introduction to historical databases for anyone who wants to incorporate them into their research project.

The handbook is broken down into the following chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. Sources, information and data
  3. Fundamentals of database design
  4. Relationships
  5. Entity relationship modelling
  6. Problems facing the historian
  7. Conclusion  

Please note that this course was last updated in 2014, although we believe that for the most part it remains useful. It is provided as is, but users should be aware that some material may be out of date.