HNR Lunch Lectures

From January 2021 onwards, monthly online lectures will shed a spotlight on recent research and ideas from the field of historical network analysis to promote discussion among the HNR community. If possible, the lectures will be recorded and made available to the HNR Youtube channel.

New lectures will be announced over the HNR Newsletters with infos on speakers, topics and registration. It is possible to register for individual lectures as well as for the whole lecture series.


Date Speaker
May 20th, 2021 Rachel Midura, Early Modern Digital Itineraries (EmDigIt): Networks of European Space, 1545-1761
Apr 15th, 2021 Ramona Roller, Modeling time in letter correspondence networks of the European Reformation: beyond snapshots towards temporal paths
Mar 18th, 2021 Diane Cline, People, Places, and Things in Contexts: Field Maps and the Ancient Greeks at Sea
Febr 18th, 2021 Henrike Rudolph, (Re)Constructing Historical Narratives from Collective Biographies
Jan 21st, 2021 Demival Vasques Filho, “Extracting large-scale network data from archives”



May 20th, 2021: Early Modern Digital Itineraries (EmDigIt): Networks of European Space, 1545-1761

by Rachel Midura

Due to the time difference to the US, the lecture will take place as an afternoon tea lecture at 4 p.m. CET

From dictionaries to gazetteers, the early modern period was the age of the reference book, with more than 1,600 guides published between 1470 to 1599 alone. Itinerary books structured European conceptualization and navigation of space through the eighteenth century, yet have rarely been studied as a text technology and international knowledge project. The EmDigIt database represents the first attempt at a comprehensive bibliography, and currently consists of eighty-four itinerary books representing over 3,500 unique routes, connecting over 1,500 locations, published and republished over the course of two centuries. The talk will cover applications of Social Network Analysis in a forthcoming article for the Journal of Social History, as well as next steps for the project using the Transkribus text recognition software.

Register for this lecture at EventBrite.


Apr 15th, 2021: Modeling time in letter correspondence networks of the European Reformation: beyond snapshots towards temporal paths

by Ramona Roller

Converting time stamped edges to temporal paths

Interactions between individuals are inherently temporal. For example, letters are sent and received at a specific date. Despite this temporality, we commonly model interactions with aggregated networks where temporal relations are ignored. As a consequence, interactions at a later point in time can affect those at an earlier point: chronology is broken leading to flawed network statistics, such as centrality measures. I will address this problem by using network models that are based on paths of interactions rather than on classic interaction dyads. By applying these paths to a letter correspondence network of European reformers from the 16th century, I show that central reformers become less important when accounting for time and the spread of ideas gets restricted to specific routes.

Watch this lecture on the HNR YouTube channel


Mar 18th, 2021: People, Places, and Things in Contexts: Field Maps and the Ancient Greeks at Sea

by Diane Harris Cline, Ph.D.

Field map for the ecosystem for Greek shipping in the ancient Mediterranean

The topic for discussion is the introduction of ‘field maps’, which combine sociograms with an interpretive layer of fields (e.g. economic, social, technological, infrastructure, religious) to analyse the ways humans and things are entangled. ‘Field map’ is a term which I have coined for this kind of data visualization. These fields are layered over the sociogram to show  the larger chains of interactions that tie people, their activities, places, and non-human things in the social puzzle.  To demonstrate the application of field maps, we will use as a case study the ties between olive oil, wine, and the sea for the ancient Greeks, and in this way we can model the entanglement inside the complex systems of an ancient Greek merchant ship in its contexts at sea and in ports. Using this adaptation of sociograms, we explore the role of material things in maintaining social relations, inspired by materiality studies, entanglement, Actor-Network Theory, sensory experience studies, and social network analysis.

Watch this lecture on the HNR YouTube channel


Febr 18th, 2021: (Re)Constructing Historical Narratives from Collective Biographies

by Henrike Rudolph

Collective biographies follow a particular logic of compilation: they depict individuals deemed either exceptional or representative for a certain period or group and emphasize such exceptionality or representativeness in the life stories. The resulting biases and gaps render collective biographies a challenging resource granting only limited insights into universal traits or biographical details. As I will argue in my talk, however, once we employ network analysis, collective biographies can become objects of study in their own right as markers of dominant historical narratives. Based on a case study of collective biographies of women activists in twentieth-century China, I will explore the possibilities of tracing recurring tropes, reflect on the importance of the narrative construction of indirect social ties, and critically examine temporal aspects in biographical sketches. The proposed analytical framework, which uses both one- and two-mode graphs, can be applied to revisit collective biographies or other biographical corpora in different historical contexts.

Watch this lecture on the HNR YouTube channel


Jan 21st, 2021: Extracting large-scale network data from archives

by Demival Vasques Filho

Network of documents of administrative correspondence of the Portuguese Empire

Network of documents of administrative correspondence of the Portuguese Empire

The paper Networks from archives: Reconstructing networks of official correspondence in the early modern Portuguese empire–recently published in the journal Social Networks, with my co-authors Agata Bloch and Michal Bojanowski–addresses the problem of processing a large corpus of unstructured textual information to extract network data. Our corpus consists of almost 170,000 documents of administrative correspondence of the Portuguese empire with its Atlantic overseas territories, from 1610 to 1833, cataloged in the Portuguese Overseas Archives of Lisbon. In this HNR lunch-lecture, I will first talk over the methods we used to extract network data from natural language corpora, with detailed technical information about the six steps for creating network data as we described in the paper. These steps include manually annotating texts, developing a named entity recognition model, using regular expressions to identify relational (sender/recipient) data, and avoiding duplicates among the entities extracted. Second, focusing on networks analysis, I will discuss the methods we envision to perform (future work) with this dataset in order to engage with the historiography of the early modern Portuguese empire and the discussion about the multi-continental monarchy theory. This discussion will cover the limitations of correspondence data and the reconstruction of multilayer networks of actors and institutions.

Watch this lecture on the HNR YouTube channel