A PORT for Modern Languages

By Katia Pizzi Welcome to a PORT for modern languages! This is your gateway to a vast and intriguing treasure trove of multi-lingual resources, from French to Spanish, from German to Polish, from Italian to Portuguese, from Russian to Lusophone, Czech and much more! Libraries, archives, culture and arts centres, schools, and a score of centres of cultural exchange and interaction both in the UK and in the wider world are within your grasp! This vast array of research opportunities includes funding opportunities and specific tuition on how to get hold of them. Specifically, our material covers French, Italian, Spanish, German, Czech, Polish, Russian and Portuguese studies, and to some degree Francophone, Hispanic, Latin-American and Lusophone cultures as well. A PORT for modern languages provides links to and information about institutions, e.g. libraries, archives and museums with a focus on modern languages and cultures, as well as web-based resources. We give practical advice on access, facilities and usage, as appropriate. To access our resources, click on port.sas.ac.uk. Here, a range of individual modules will give you access to options for different kinds of resources relevant for one particular language, e.g., simply open the ‘French’ book and a sub-menu for different kinds of French resources will be revealed. All this material is conceived as free-standing self-study units but will also be of use to teachers, publishers, translators and others interested in the wider languages field. As a valuable support to face-to-face provision, a PORT for modern languages is more than a research training programme. It is a gateway to the world always within your reach. Please visit us on: port.sas.ac.uk....

Doing Quantitative Research in the Humanities

Data can be described as quantitative if it can be measured or identified on a numerical scale. Examples include length, height, area, volume, weight, speed, age, distance, cost and so on. However, not all data using numbers is quantitative: Datasets are often classified into categorical data, i.e. using numbers as descriptors. Arithmetic performed on the numbers describing categorical data would produce nonsensical results, for the same reason that you cannot add 6 Acacia Road to 12 Acacia Road to create 18 Acacia Road. Be wary, therefore, when you consider a dataset. What exactly do the numbers represent? If your numbers answer a question beginning ‘how many’ or ‘how much’, you have quantitative data. If your numbers represent groups or classes, you have qualitative data expressed categorically. The appropriate analytical techniques will vary accordingly. This new tutorial on PORT and developed by the School of Advanced Study, is designed to give you the ability to approach quantitative work with confidence, even if you have no prior statistical experience. It will provide a grounding in the collection and analysis of numerical data and give you the tools to report your own results and think critically about those of others. The Quantitative Methods tutorial can be found on the School of Advanced Study PORT website alongside other online research training resources for humanities postgraduate and early career...

Acquiring basic palaeographic skills online

By Fran Alvarez InScribe was conceived and developed at the heart of the SAS as a tool for researchers of different fields and members of the general public with an interest in medieval manuscripts. Its aim is to allow them to acquire basic palaeographic skills so that they are able to extract as much information as possible from relevant documents. InScribe provides this in an easy, relaxed and interactive way. The study of Palaeography has for some time had a somewhat unfair reputation, but recent developments and the application of digital technologies to the field of Manuscript Studies have not only greatly enhanced access to manuscript sources but also made the whole ‘Palaeography experience’ much more user-friendly. InScribe must be understood within that new wave of resources springing up under the generic umbrella of Digital Humanities. Besides offering comprehensive but accessible textual content presenting the essential principles and features for a Palaeographical (and shortly Diplomatic too) analysis, it also features a newly-developed transcription tool that allows users to put those acquired notions into practice. The raison-d’etre of InScribe is to provide its users with the basic competence required in order to interact with medieval manuscripts and documents. These skills may be required in a variety of circumstances. We may need to read and transcribe a given text in order to produce a successful translation. Similarly, identifying the type of script used by the scribe, may allow us to date it. What is more, it would not be uncommon to be able to locate the production of the manuscript or document by looking at some of the scribe’s idiosyncrasies. With...

Should historians learn text processing techniques?

By Jonathan Blaney Historians have always dealt with large amounts of text and have had to develop ways of dealing with the volume of it, such as the index card or the Renaissance book wheel. Now that much textual information comes in electronic form, that data is now much easier to access and to analyse. But some historians are under the misapprehension that text processing techniques are difficult to learn. Many texts are now available to download in digital form. This is a great opportunity but also a challenge to the traditional humanities scholar. Those who would like to know what they can do with their text collections may not be sure where to get the information, and they may find that online courses are written for the computer scientist rather than the historian. The IHR has written two free courses to teach historians the basics of semantic data and of data mining. No prior knowledge is needed and there are plenty of genuine historical examples to illustrate the material. Semantic data means encoding texts according to their characteristics. The beauty of this is that the characteristics can be whatever the researcher is interested in, whether it is the date at which a placename is mentioned, the excise duty in port records, or the language used in a diplomat’s letter. If you decide that encoding the texts yourself is too much work, knowing how it is done will not only help you use other digital collections more expertly, it may even allow you to ask questions of the data that you did not know could be answered. Many marked-up...

Managing your Research: launch of a new online resource to help historians to look after their data

Historians don’t often like to think about data management.  Indeed, it is almost considered an ugly word or a taboo.  Data Management gets in the way of the interesting stuff – the research, the learning.  Nevertheless, it is vital to the work that we do.  History is data.  It is the essential essence of the subject.  Yet, it is so easy to leave your folder system in a complete mess or not to consider issues of preservation or back-up until necessary (or until your hard drive dies on you!).  Stuff that you produce now, for current use is understandable, but 6 months down the line, a year?  Perhaps not so much. It is for this reason that the Institute of Historical Research in partnership with the Department of History at the University of Hull and Sheffield, as well as the Humanities Research Institute (Sheffield), have produced this online resource to guide postgraduate students in the processes of looking after their research. The online course – Managing your Research – offers students the opportunity to create a data management plan which can be used to help guide their research and used as evidence of a well thought out research project for supervisors, funding bodies, and potential employers. Using videos, handbooks, and exercises to guide the researcher through the relevant information, the course is designed to be of practical use for anyone starting or undertaking a research project. Managing your Research was developed via funding from the AHRC Collaborative Skills Development strand. It is the main output of the History DMT project and can now be found on the School of...

Hidden histories: Britain’s secret stash

Dr Sarah Stockwell, a senior lecturer in Imperial and Commonwealth History at King’s College London, discuss the latest in a series of decolonisation workshops organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. I am greatly looking forward to the upcoming workshop ‘The hidden history of decolonisation’ at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS) on 20 February. This is the latest in a regular series of ‘decolonisation workshops’ organised by ICWS in conjunction with King’s College London, which are now firmly established as key events for those working in the field, especially for postgraduates and early career researchers. Last semester’s workshop organised with colleagues at the University of Portsmouth on ‘Connected histories of decolonisation’ was an outstanding success. This week’s event promises to be different again – and very important. We’re going to be discussing what has literally been the ‘hidden’ history of British decolonisation. In 2011 as a result of a successful legal action brought by Mau Mau veterans, former British foreign secretary William Hague finally admitted what had long been suspected but never previously confirmed: that British governments had covertly removed thousands of files from former colonies at independence. Rather than deposit these with other colonial records, these so-called ‘migrated archives’ were secretly stashed at a government repository at Hanslope Park. At a stroke this revelation cast an entirely new light on Britain’s retreat from empire. Not only were all previous accounts of UK policy based on a seriously incomplete archival record, but even more strikingly, on the archival base that British governments chose to release to historians. This was not just a question of government holding back files...