Programming for Historians

As digital history becomes ever more popular, the demand for online resources also grows. For the digital historian this is a great opportunity to access a wider range of sources faster and quicker than visiting your local library. The one issue which remains for a digital historian is finding the right program, which searches the documents that are of the same interest as the individual. For example cites such as Google books, which have, millions of books saved within their database how can a historian search this database quickly and efficiently? This is where programming to suit the needs of the historian comes in. As online sources becomes more of a ever growing advantage to historians, so does the need to design their own programs to get the best refined results, thus gaining the ability to know to code can be hugely beneficial to historians and increases their research capabilities. Examples for this are that if a historians can programme a piece of software to search for keywords or particular refines which suit the historians interests, than it can scan over many documents and data across databases refining particular results to suit the historians needs. A good example where we can apply the use of variables to customise the search data, is by applying Boolean logic. For example if we take two variables called ‘start date’ and ‘end date’, then using logic like “when greater or equals to start date AND less than or equal to end date” we will only see information which relates to the time we wanted to see.  This is an advantage to the historian as it allows them to search data within a particular time period.

What is surprising is that many historians have already got experience using computer programs, perhaps without acknowledging it. For instance, Microsoft office, databases often is a great way of extracting information. Furthermore, Blogging amongst historians is becoming increasingly popular, however in able to maintain a blog site, a basic knowledge of the coding behind the text would be a great advantage and enable the historian to maintain their own site without the need for professional assistance.

However, limitations can occur for historians who desire to learn how to programme. Programming is quite time consuming, learning how to programme properly and efficiently can take a while. It is also key to note that a historian may need professional assistance with learning code, which may cost a price, and also if they learn online they are open to not being able to understand certain elements of the code which would better be explained by a person. Never less, programming supports the historian whose research would be enhanced by quicker and better refined sources online.

Janine Noack, ‘Why historians should learn how to code (at least a bit)’Doing History in Public

(Accessed, 29th April 2015)


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