Cropped image of ‘‘Tobias and Sara on their Wedding Night’ (Germany, c.1520).
Finding an image to represent a new research project can be something of a challenge, particularly when that project does not have any strong visual focus. How do you illustrate linked open data without resorting to stock photos of networks and circuits which ultimately do nothing other than fill space? The Thesaurus of British and Irish History as SKOS, which is supported by follow-on funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, has the acronym TOBIAS (you will, I hope, forgive us for quietly overlooking H for History). It is this that we have chosen to draw upon, using the stained glass depiction of ‘Tobias and Sara on their Wedding Night’ (Germany, c.1520) that forms part of the collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is a peaceful image from what is a far from peaceful story. The Book of Tobit (or Tobias) is a scriptural work included in the Apocrypha, declared canonical by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. The Tobias depicted in the 16th-century stained glass panel is the son of the pious Tobit. Tobias marries his cousin Sara despite the fact that all seven of her previous husbands have been consumed by demons on their wedding night. With the help of the archangel Raphael, and the fumes from burning the heart and liver of a fish, the demons are driven away, and the marriage prospers. The small dog curled up at the foot of the bed had travelled with Tobias from his homeland, and art historians believe that its inclusion here may be a reference to fidelity and marriage. The image as a whole, complete with a pair of shoes left beside the bed, gives no indication of the horrible fate that has just been avoided.
In celebration of the diversity, innovation and influence of academic books, the first ever Academic Book Week is being held from 9 to 16 November 2015. A range of activities and events are being organised throughout October and November, tackling subjects such as ‘Curious books’, the trustworthiness of Wikipedia, the future of the English PhD, and the role and history of the university press (see http://acbookweek.com/events/, for more information).
On Tuesday 10 November, the School of Advanced Study, University of London is hosting a debate focusing on how the evolving technology(ies) of the book have affected the ways that we read. A panel of six speakers – Professor Sarah Churchwell (School of Advanced Study, University of London), Professor Justin Champion (Royal Holloway, University of London), Dr Martin Eve (Birkbeck, University of London), Dr Stephen Gregg (Bath Spa University), Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia) and Pip Willcox (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) – will consider the many different kinds of books which are read in an academic context, from text books to edited collections, from monographs to scholarly editions, from novels to handbooks. There will also be plenty of time for audience discussion, beginning with formal responses from early career researchers for whom these questions will be of enormous importance in years to come.
This event is being organised as part of Opening the Book: the Future of the Academic Monograph, an international multi-centred debate. Academic Book Week itself is the centrepiece of this year’s activity on the two-year AHRC/British Library Academic Future of the Academic Book project (http://academicbookfuture.org/).
The publication in 1999 of Patrick Wormald’s first volume of The Making of English Law changed unalterably the ways in which scholars approached the evidence of English law codes. When Patrick died five years later, the second volume of Making, which was intended to consider the real life meaning and practices of English laws, was left unpublished. Fortunately, Stephen Baxter and John Hudson have reconstructed as much of volume 2 as is possible and have offered it to Early English Laws for publication online, where it will serve as a reference work of tremendous importance for all who are interested in the legal world of the English up to the time of Magna Carta. In their introduction to Papers Preparatory to the Making of English Law, Baxter and Hudson explain the genesis of the book and the nature of its parts.
We are especially grateful for the privilege of publishing Papers Preparatory to the Making of English Law on the Early English Laws site because of a piece of the project’s own history. Our project started as an idea that arose at the memorial conference for Patrick held at St. Hilda’s College Oxford in 2006. All recognized because of Patrick’s work how much could now be done with the texts of English law. By the end of the conference, most of the literary board had been recruited, and soon thereafter the collaboration between the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London and the (then) Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King’s College London (now the Department of Digital Humanities) had been agreed. Funding from the AHRC made this pious gesture intended to honour Patrick, and to extend his work, a reality. It seems, then, particularly appropriate that we are also able to bring Patrick’s final work to those of you who are fascinated by the intricate and challenging world of early English law.
One final point. Although Papers Preparatory is a conglomeration of papers, chapters, outlines and proposals Patrick had drafted at various stages of the second volume’s development, it should be cited as a whole with the following elements (according, of course, to the dictates of individual style guides): Patrick Wormald, Papers Preparatory to the Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century, vol. II: From God’s Law to Common Law, edited by Stephen Baxter and John Hudson (University of London: Early English Laws, 2014) <http://www.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk/reference/wormald/>
One of the main aims of the Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities project is to involve arts and humanities researchers in the development of tools for analysing web archives, thereby ensuring that those tools meet real rather than perceived researcher needs. We recently ran an open competition inviting researchers to submit proposals across a range of disciplines which focus on the archived web, and have selected 11 from a tremendously strong and varied set of applications. The topics that will be studied over the next eight months are:
Rowan Aust – Tracing notions of heritage
Rona Cran – Beat literature in the contemporary imagination
Richard Deswarte – Revealing British Eurosceptism in the UK web domain and archive
Chris Fryer – The UK Parliament Web Archive
Saskia Huc-Hepher – An ethnosemiotic study of London French habitus as displayed in blogs
Alison Kay – Capture, commemoration and the citizen-historian: Digital Shoebox archives relating to P.O.W.s in the Second World War
Gareth Millward – Digital barriers and the accessible web: disabled people, information and the internet
Marta Musso – A history of the online presence of UK companies
Harry Raffal – The MOD’s online development and strategy for recruitment between 1996 and 2013
Lorna Richardson – Public archaeology: a digital perspective
Helen Taylor – Do online networks exist for the poetry community?
We very much look forward to working with our bursary holders over the coming months, and will be showcasing some of their research findings on the project blog.
We are delighted to have been awarded AHRC funding for a new research project, ‘Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities‘. BUDDAH aims to transform the way in which researchers in the arts and humanities engage with the archived web, focusing on data derived from the UK web domain crawl for the period 1996-2013. Web archives are an increasingly important resource for arts and humanities researchers, yet we have neither the expertise nor the tools to use them effectively. Both the data itself, totalling approximately 65 terabytes and constituting many billions of words, and the process of collection are poorly understood, and it is possible only to draw the broadest of conclusions from current analytical analysis.
A key objective of the project will be to develop a theoretical and methodological framework within which to study this data, which will be applicable to the much larger on-going UK domain crawl, as well as in other national contexts. Researchers will work with developers at the British Library to co-produce tools which will support their requirements, testing different methods and approaches. In addition, a major study of the history of UK web space from 1996 to 2013 will be complemented by a series of small research projects from a range of disciplines, for example contemporary history, literature, gender studies and material culture.
We were delighted to hear on 15 January that the IHR, along with the universities of Amsterdam and Toronto, King’s College London and the History of Parliament Trust, has been awarded funding by the international Digging into Data Challenge 2013. ‘Digging into Linked Parliamentary Data’ is one of fourteen projects which, over the next two years, will investigate how computational techniques can be applied to ‘big data’ in the humanities and social sciences.
Parliamentary proceedings reflect our history from centuries ago to the present day. They exist in a common format that has survived the test of time, and reflect any event of significance (through times of war and peace, of economic crisis and prosperity). With carefully curated proceedings becoming available in digital form in many countries, new research opportunities arise to analyse this data, on an unprecedented longitudinal scale, and across different nations, cultures and systems of political representation.
Focusing on the UK, Canada and The Netherlands, this project will deliver a common format for encoding parliamentary proceedings (with an initial focus on 1800–yesterday); a joint dataset covering all three jurisdictions; a workbench with a range of tools for the comparative, longitudinal study of parliamentary data; and substantive case studies focusing on migration, left/right ideological polarization and parliamentary language. We hope that comparative analysis of this kind, and the tools to support it, will inform a new approach to the history of parliamentary communication and discourse, and address new research questions.
A project website will be up and running in the next few weeks, so watch this space for more information!