By Way of Introduction

An introduction to the website on history and digital humanities

6 June 2017

In this introductory post I want to lay out the reasons for the creation of this website, to discuss some content that I will be looking to create, and to set some goals for the site. First though, I should first introduce myself. I am a historian of early modern Europe. My research investigates merchant families and the social basis of trade, politics, and religion. Specifically, I have worked in the archives of the Van der Meulens and Della Failles, two merchant families from Antwerp involved in European-wide trade at the end of the sixteenth century. I am currently working on a manuscript that argues for the significance of sibling relationships and inheritance in the development of early modern capitalism. In addition, I am working on some digital humanities projects using the two archives.

There is no need to justify creating a website in 2017, nevertheless I want to put forward the specific reasons that led me to create this site. Fundamentally, this website provides a space for me to showcase projects either digital or traditional, syllabi for courses that I have taught, and a place to link to my cv for anyone interested. However, the actual impetus for creating this website is that I have been developing a few digital humanities projects that I want to both discuss and display. The creation of the website itself has also been a digital—if not necessarily digital humanities—project in itself. Instead of using a more ready-made solution such as SquareSpace or WordPress, this website is a static site, which means that it is composed of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and all of the content is produced in Markdown documents. I am using the static site generator Hugo to build the site and am deploying it through Netlify. This process enabled me to learn more about these technologies and have greater control over the process and content. You can view all of the components of the raw website on my GitHub page.

Concerning, the actual content of this blog, I envision the posts falling into two general categories. In the first place, the blog will be a space for me to discuss the various projects that I am working on, both traditional history projects and those in digital humanities. Emphasis will be on the latter, since it was in the course of working on digital projects that I created this site. Secondly, I want to use the blog to discuss my own process and reasons for learning some of the skills of digital humanities. I want to document what I have done, and hopefully in doing so, I can provide useful information to others looking into the field of digital humanities. I should say that I use Apple products for all of my computing, and so my posts will be centered on macOS and iOS.

I am planning on writing two main series of posts about my path in digital humanities, pointing towards strategies and resources that I have found useful. I am calling these series DH 1.0 and DH 2.0. The differences between the two are both personal and technical. What I am labelling DH 1.0 is a series of strategies that I developed while in graduate school to optimize the way that I conduct research and turn that research into written work. This mainly involved taking advantage of various GUI applications to make my research notes and writing process more organized and readily searchable. DH 2.0 will discuss the second step that I have more recently taken to produce the digital humanities projects that will be shown on the site, including going through the creation of the website itself. The skills of DH 2.0 build on those I developed in DH 1.0, but instead of GUI applications, I have moved to the use of code to analyze data and produce visualizations. I will discuss the challenges and advantages I have found in moving to what is for me a very new way of thinking. For now, you can see the fruits of my ongoing digital humanities project on the correspondence network of Daniel van der Meulen on the Projects page of the website.