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Posts from the ‘Emily Ward’ Category

Reflections on Making ‘Big Data’ Human

By Emily Ward @1066unicorn and Carys Brown @HistoryCarys

If there was one thing that the Making Big Data Human conference made clear, it was that ‘Big Data’, and indeed digital methodologies in general, provide some very exciting opportunities to advance historical research. From the ambitious and wide-ranging National Archives’ Traces Through Time project, which looks to create a generic method to look at historical individuals across enormous datasets, through to the more specific but equally exciting Casebooks Project, the conference participants were treated to a feast of ideas about how historical methods are adapting to the changing nature of data in a digital age.

But what exactly is ‘big data’, and what did the Doing History in Public team have in mind when we decided to explore how we could make it ‘human’? The basic definition of ‘big data’ is ‘extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally’.[1] For historians this might, as Jane Winters demonstrated in her keynote lecture, be a case of using the archived web as an historical source, or of exploring parliamentary proceedings from three different countries over a period of more than 200 years.

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To ask or not to ask: that is the question

By Emily Ward, @1066unicorn

Palms sweating, mouth dry, heart pounding in my chest, my thoughts racing. I realise that I’m going to do it. Tentatively I gather my courage, swallow down the fear and start to raise my hand. Hand up, there’s no going back; I’m spotted and heads turn my way. Eyes on me, I open my mouth. Barely formulated sentences tumble out. I wait. Then clearly I have made enough sense that the watching eyes turn forward again. I have just asked my first question at a history conference.* Read more

Growing Up Without a Beard: Child Kings and Facial Hair

By Emily Ward

From discussions about how to decorate it for Christmas, to a phenomenon called ‘peak beard’, and even an entire forthcoming Somerset House exhibition, one thing is certain – beards are having their moment in the media spotlight. Facial hair has been linked with a range of characteristics across a number of studies, including one article in Behavioural Ecology in 2011 which noted that human perceptions of age can be augmented for those who have a beard. But, turning back the clock several hundred years, can the portrayal of beards in images in the central Middle Ages tell us something about age in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries?

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Remembrance, Re-launch and Richard III

By  Emily Ward

Doing History in Public (DHP) has been a fully-functioning, up-and-running collaborative blog project for the best part of a year. Those of us who have been involved with it since the start wear the ‘blogger’ badge with pride and have found blogging to be an excellent medium with which to pursue thoughts on a variety of historical interests, from personal research to current affairs or digital humanities. Hence a recent social media training session for first year Arts and Humanities Research Council PhD students provided the perfect opportunity for members of the DHP team to try to enthuse new graduates about the use of social media in an academic context. It also ended up providing an occasion to reflect on an exciting year past and to plug a new re-launch for the blog! Read more

The Stone of Destiny

by Emily Ward

Do you need a crown to be a king? The answer may seem obvious to those familiar with the concept of a coronation ceremony, like the recent one held in Spain, during which a crown is placed upon the head of the monarch-to-be as part of the recognition of their kingship or queenship. The image of the crown and its symbolic links to royalty are consistently promulgated in mediums from literature and artwork to films and even children’s dressing up costumes. But, when is a crown not a crown? …when it’s a stone.

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HHhH by Laurent Binet (English Translation by Sam Taylor, 2012)

By Emily Ward

In the beginning of his historical novel, Laurent Binet warns the reader with a quote from Osip Mandelstam, “Once again, the writer stains the tree of History with his thoughts”. Yet, despite commencing his book with this ominous forewarning, Binet leaps straight into the fray to attempt to combine the composition of a novel with the approach of historical writing. And (in my opinion) he succeeds with style. Read more

Sir James Clarke Holt (26 April 1922 – 9 April 2014)

By Emily Ward

Sir James Clarke Holt, perhaps best known by his publishing moniker of J. C. Holt, died on 9 April 2014 aged 91. Holt’s contribution to the field of medieval British history has been vast. His publications span a period of over fifty years, from the early 1950s to his last article published in 2007. His research helped to elucidate a range of substantial and diverse topics, from setting the background and history of Magna Carta in its context to exploring the mythical figure of Robin Hood.

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“There’s no such thing as the Middle Ages…”

By Emily Ward

What does the early Middle Ages have in common with the Illuminati, the moon landing and JFK? The answer – that, like the other three, it has also been the subject of a conspiracy theory – may come as a surprise. This conspiracy, often called Phantom Time Hypothesis, suggests that the early Middle Ages never really existed. When conspiracy theories like this come into direct conflict with accepted historical fact, how should we, as historians, approach them?

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Jacques Le Goff (1 January 1924 – 1 April 2014)

by Emily Ward

On 1 April 2014, the French historian Jacques Le Goff died aged ninety. His life spanned the majority of the twentieth century and his contribution to the field of medieval history can only be revered and respected. Le Goff was born in Toulon on 1 January 1924. During his life he experienced the Nazi occupation of France and witnessed the “coup de Prague” in person in 1947-8. Le Goff held early career positions in several universities, including Lincoln College, Oxford, where he gained a research studentship for the years 1951-2. His principle publications came during the 1970s and 1980s and it was at the start of this period, in 1972, that Le Goff was made head of l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) located in Paris.

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British Library Doctoral Open Day

by Emily Ward

The British Library is one of those resources which can be so initially overwhelming that you don’t know the first place to start in order to make the best use of it. With over 56 million items, even navigating through the 17 different online catalogues seemed a daunting prospect to me. It was for this reason that I decided to attend one of the Doctoral Open Days run by the library, which are specifically aimed at postgraduates in the first year of PhD study.

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Agnes of Poitou (c.1025-1077) and ‘Medieval’ Attitudes to Women in Power?

by Emily Ward

Popular interest in medieval queenship was sparked by the recent television dramatization of the novel, The White Queen, and its portrayal of the relationship between a queen mother and her young sons, the ‘princes in the tower’. This triggered thoughts for me about my own research period, the eleventh and twelfth centuries.  Can the example of one eleventh century empress, Agnes of Poitou, inform our views about the power held by mothers of child kings and attitudes towards these women?

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