HISTORY AND GIS: ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations and Reflections. London: Springer, 2013.
Travis, Charles. “Writing Visual Histories: An Interview with David J. Staley” in History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations and Reflections. London: Springer, 2013.
Through his interview, Staley makes several points about the role of visualizations in the field of history. First, Staley notes that technology “does not simply produce attractive visual aids to illustrate a textual presentation but tools to explore data” (Staley, 146). Consequently, Staley contends that technology (like GIS) should take scholarship beyond its traditional narrative role to a more interactive, multidimensional, exploratory role. As he considers technology and the notion of the spatial turn, Staley hesitates to legitimize the certainty of the spatial turn being that it has yet to catch on to historians at large. Nevertheless, in discussing spatial history, Staley argues that spatial history provides new methodologies for historical argumentation and interpretation. Finally, in discussing the relationship between historians and technology, Staley desires to see computer scientists develop better software (more accessible) and digital historians expand their proficiency with technology.
Von Lünen, Alexander. Immobile History: An Interview with Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie” in History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations and Reflections. London: Springer, 2013.
When called a pioneer in computers and geography in history, Ladurie responded that he was a pioneer in geography and quantitative history but was “helped” by others with computers (Ladurie, 16). Moreover, when questioned about his statement, “Historians should become programmers to survive,” Ladurie acknowledges while that he himself was not a programmer, outside of cultural history, all history aims to be quantitative, which consequently makes programming very important. Then, after demonstrating how geography played an important role in his quantitative studies and micro-history research, Ladurie explained that it was his French academic training that taught him to value the combination of history and geography. Finally, addressing the general relationship between history and geography, Ladurie shares that while they have much in common, he “can’t say much about the theoretical underpinnings” (Ladurie, 23). Nevertheless, Ladurie shares how geography and history influenced his concept of immobile history, which builds off of the long dureé and concludes that little has changed over time in certain geographies (thus the term immobile history).
Von Lünen, Alexander. “Tracking in a New Territory: Re-imaging GIS for History” in History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations and Reflections. London: Springer, 2013.
Through this chapter, Lünen argues for the use of GIS in historical research. Here, Lünen describes that as different historiographical turns develop, they begin by imitating previous methodologies before they take on their own character. Believing that Historical GIS should be past the imitation phase (of being used for the purpose of data repositories), Lünen argues that GIS in historical research, or “Gistory” should be used to explore, to create new questions, new narratives, and new arguments. Furthermore, Lünen contends that Gistory provides the perfect opportunity to practice abduction (an original argument) and tracking (using speculation and inference in the exploration of an original argument). Lünen concludes by stating that Historical GIS should not be used just to visualize outcomes, “but rather for constructing new narratives in order for historians to constantly reassess their own research agenda” (Lünen, 234).
Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands, California: ESRI Press, 2008.
Bodenhamer, David J. “History and GIS: Implications for the Discipline” in Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands, California: ESRI Press, 2008.
Through his chapter, Bodenhamer looks as the implications for GIS in the field of history. Here, Bodenhamer argues that even though there are trail blazing projects like the Dust Bowl, there are still methodological and pedagogical issues with GIS. Considering methodological problems, he explains most historians prefer the “medium of words and narratives” instead of digital projects, being that a historian’s evidence is usually in the form of words and narratives (Bodenhamer, 224-25). Another issue raised by Bodenhamer is the fact that GIS requires information that can be measured with precision, and historians, unfortunately, often deal with imprecise evidence. Considering pedagogical issues, Bodenhamer shares that “scarcity of financial and technical resources” creates an impediment to the development of GIS in the humanities (Bodenhamer, 228); furthermore, he argues that there is a lack of individuals trained in GIS technology and historical inquiry.
Cunfer, Geoff, “Scaling the Dust Bowl,” in Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands, California: ESRI Press, 2008.
In his chapter, Cunfer explains that traditionally, historians believe that the Dust Bowl of the 1920s-30s was caused by capitalism’s demanding pressure on the mid-west’s ecosystem. Recognizing the potential for GIS to reevaluate the traditional narrative of the Dust Bowl, Cunfer explained that by “incorporating data about all of the counties on the southern plains into a GIS,” the researcher van “view the [historical] question at a different geographic scale” (Cunfer, 101). So, where previous historians had based their arguments about the Dust Bowl on the studies of two counties, Cunfer sought to use new methods to widen the spatial scale of his research. Interestingly, not only was he able to expand the spatial scale of his research, but GIS technology allowed him to expand his temporal scale as well (Cunfer, 109). Thus, using GIS technology, Cunfer was driven by the historical question: was the Dust Bowl really caused by capitalism’s demand on the ecosystem of the Midwest? Through his research using GIS technology, Cunfer was able to look at the cause of the Dustbowl on a large scale spatially and temporally that could not have been done with traditional methods; as a result, through his research he concluded that dust storms are “a normal part of southern plains ecology…Dust storm activity can be exacerbated or locally enhanced by plowing for crops, but that was not the sole and simple cause of the Dust Bowl” (Cunfer, 118).
Knowles, Anne Kelly. “GIS and History,” in Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands, California: ESRI Press, 2008.
In her chapter, Knowles argues that GIS a “superb tool for mapping and geographically analyzing census data, social surveys, and other kinds of systematically collected information” as it allows researchers to visualize patters, interpret data from different perspectives, and more (Knowles, 2). Yet, as Knowles shares, the “precision” that makes GIS such a wonderful tool for research and analysis can just as easily be a difficult tool when one’s sources cannot be condensed into a database (Knowles, 2). Furthermore, Knowles shares how GIS is also problematic given that GIS is a visual tool and historians tend to favor words and texts in narrative form. Moreover, Knowles argues that GIS is problematic in that it draws greatly from “epistemological divide” between the fields of geography and history from which it draws (Knowles, 3). In addition to looking at the promises and problems of GIS, Knowles outlines 4 characteristics of GIS Scholarship, including, but not limited to, the idea that “geographic questions” that drive historical inquiry (Knowles, 7). Finally, in demonstrating historical use of GIS, Knowles provides examples such as the Map of Rome or The Battlefield of Gettysburg.