Big Data for Global History: The Transformative Promise of Digital Humanities


  • Joris van Eijnatten Royal Netherlands Historical Society (editorial secretary)
  • Toine Pieters
  • Jaap Verheul



digital history, e-humanities, digital humanities


This article discusses the promises and challenges of digital humanities
methodologies for historical inquiry. In order to address the great outstanding question whether big data will re-invigorate macro-history, a number of research projects are described that use cultural text mining to explore big data repositories of digitised newspapers. The advantages of quantitative analysis, visualisation and named entity recognition in both exploration and analysis are illustrated in the study of public debates on drugs, drug trafficking, and drug users in the early twentieth century (wahsp), the comparative study of discourses about heredity, genetics, and eugenics in Dutch and German newspapers, 1863-1940 (biland) and the study of trans-Atlantic discourses (Translantis). While many technological and practical obstacles remain, advantages over traditional hermeneutic methodology are found in heuristics, analytics, quantitative trans-disciplinarity, and reproducibility, offering a quantitative and trans-national perspective on the history of mentalities.


This article is part of the special issue 'Digital History'.


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How to Cite

Big Data for Global History: The Transformative Promise of Digital Humanities. (2013). BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 128(4), 55-77.