History and GIS
Abshere, Caitrin, Lucas Farrell, Andrew Feinberg, Thom Humber, Garrott Kuzzy, and Charlie Wirene. "What Could Lee See at Gettysburg?" Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. By Anne Kelly. Knowles and Will Roush. Redlands, CA: ESRI, 2008. 235-66. Print.
Despite the fact that the Battle of Gettysburg is one of the highly researched events of the American Civil War, it has been highly scrutinized most specifically General Lee’s order that will eventually lead to his biggest defeat and become known as “Pickett’s Charge.” Researcher Anne Kelly Knowles use a digital elevation model (DEM) in order to create a triangulated irregular network (TIN) using GIS. Knowles’ research and work with GIS has helped historians gain a better look at the battlefield’s original historical landscape. This chapter in Knowles’ book demonstrates how GIS can be used to help answer historical questions that maybe believe to be lost to time or even geography. Knowles recognizes that similar work and geospatial analysis can assist historians in understanding other battles as well and provide “many valuable insights into military strategy, the wisdom of command decisions, and the experience of war.”
Knowles, Anne Kelly., and Geoff Cunfer. "Scaling the Dust Bowl." Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands, CA: ESRI, 2008. 95-122. Print.
In this chapter Geoff Cunfer compares his research with the perception of the Dust Bowl as dictated in Donald Worster’s Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930’s. Cunfer argues with Worster’s theory that capitalism and over development of lands played a major role in the Dust Bowl. Cunfer is able to use spatial analysis to determine that not only was plowing during the 1920’s a major cause; but it was the extreme droughts as well. Cunfer is able to map newspaper accounts to find that “dust storms are a normal part of southern plains ecology, occurring whenever there are extended dry periods.” Cunfer shows that it is possible to combine traditional historical research methods (newspapers) with geospatial technology (GIS). Cunfer also shows who one might take advantage of geospatial technology to make an historical argument.
Knowles, Anne Kelly. "GIS and History." Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands, CA: ESRI, 2008. 1-26. Print.
In the opening chapter to her book, Knowles introduces GIS as both a “superb tool” as well as something which can be “problematic” for history. This chapter asserts that GIS is superb because “it allows one to visualize the geographic patterns embedded in historical evidence, examine evidence at different scales, aggregate the data from smaller to larger units, and integrate material from textual, tabular, cartographic, and visual sources provided that they share common geographic location” and problematic because it relies on mathematics—an issue for most historians who prefer to focus on images rather than data. I decided to include this chapter in my annotation because it is usual for people like me who needed an introduction to GIS, what it was and how it can be used effectively amongst historians.
Ladurie, Emmanuel LeRoy. "Immobile History." Interview by Alexander Von Lunen. History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations, and Reflections 2013: 15-24. Print.
Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie is one of the first to use computers in historical research with his early work focusing on quantitative studies and regional studies. Ladurie admits that even though he has worked with computers in the past he is still more of an “intellectual director” and is still not very practical when it comes to using computers. Ladurie also asserts the importance of collaboration when it comes to digital history because without his team he would not have been able to complete the task at hand (despite the fact that he experienced issues with the students the fact remains that he was not an expert on all aspects that it took to complete the project). Ladurie also talks about a sort of “immobile history” which is how social and economic trends will prevail over a certain length of time (growing cities omitted). Most importantly, these shifts (or lack of) can be seen bet through GIS. For me, Ladurie was able to introduce the positives and negatives that go along with studying history geographically or through geospatial technology.
Lünen, Alexander Von, and Charles Travis. "GIS and History: Epistemologies, Reflections, and Considerations." History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations and Reflections. N.p.: Springer Netherlands, 2013. 173-93. Print.
In this essay by Charles Travis we are asked to decide if GIS methodologies will one day become known as some great scientific advancement and whether or not it will change the way we learn and study history. I have been asked this question several times through various readings and it would appear that so far the answer to this question is: yes, of course. Travis claims that, despite the hesitancy of historians to fully embrace digital technology when studying history, we have used similar tools for many years; now we can just do it on the computer whereas before that was not a possibility. I appreciate the inclusion of the various time-space maps that were constructed in order to demonstrate the life paths of Patrick Kavanaugh. When trying to understand various history concepts I find it most useful to see visualizations as well as try to work with the tools myself. The ability to create this map help create a narrative or explain a concept without the use of text.
Olsson, Gunnar. ""Thou Shalt Make No Graven Maps!"" Interview by Alexander Von Lunen. History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations, and Reflections 2013: 73-87. Print.
Gunnar Olsson is a human geographer who deals with planning and its consequences looking at the relationship between “distance” and human interaction. Olsson has spent time looking at the “geographical inference problem” and what we can draw from geographical information. In this interview Olsson asserts that historical maps and GIS should not be considered the same thing despite the fact that, on occasion, they tend to try and answer the same questions. Maps can be used as either a primary or secondary source that will help historians tell a story whereas GIS is something that can be created by itself; it also important to note that you need several of these maps to create GIS. Olsson also mentions that it is important for the historian to know when it is appropriate to use these digital tools and when it is not. He calls historical geography an attempt at “reading the landscape” and find as many way of understanding as is possible. This is quite useful insight for someone who is trying to understand these various tools especially when it comes to geospatial history. I find this helpful in the same way I find helpful Cunfer’s research on the dust bowl. When is it appropriate to use GIS and when is it not? How can we use these two tools together and what can that ultimately achieve?