‘Digital History and Collaborative Research: a Practitioners’ Roundtable’

Panel Discussion

Co-hosted by Royal Historical Society and The Living with Machines Project

17:00 BST, Tuesday 23 May 2023, Online 

Watch the recording of this panel


Speakers at the event

  • Ruth Ahnert (Queen Mary, University of London, and chair)
  • Dan Edelstein (Stanford University, CA)
  • Maryanne Koweleski (Fordham University, NY)
  • Jon Lawrence (University of Exeter)
  • Katrina Navickas (University of Hertfordshire)


About the event

History’s ‘digital turn’ has reshaped how nearly all us access and search sources, analyse historical content at scale, and present our research. For some, research also involves the creation of new digitised resources and / or tools for the gathering and study of historical data in ways impossible a generation ago. The scale and speed of these developments means we are all digital practitioners, even if we are not digital historians.

Notwithstanding the ubiquity of digital content, ‘digital history’ as a sub-discipline remains much more specialist and obscure to many historians. In this panel, we bring together five historians — who are also experienced digital researchers and leaders of digital research projects — to discuss their own experience of, and approaches to, digital history.

With speakers from the US and UK, we’ll consider differing research environments and attitudes to digital history, as well as how other humanities disciplines, such as literature, are engaging with digital technologies. While appreciating the opportunities created by digital working, we’ll also reflect on the impediments that mean digital history projects remain daunting for many. As experienced practitioners, our panellists speak about their own routes in to digital history, as well as its potential for new ways of working — fostering a collaborative approach to research that extends well beyond the humanities. Hosted by Professor Ruth Ahnert, PI for Living with Machines, the panel will offer practical advice on digital working, at scale and in partnership, for historians.

This event is co-organised by the Society and The Living with Machines Project. Funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strategic Priority Fund, Living with Machines is a multidisciplinary collaboration delivered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), with The Alan Turing Institute, the British Library and the universities of East Anglia, Exeter and London (Queen Mary, and King’s College).


About our panellists

  • Ruth Ahnert is Professor of Literary History & Digital Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London. A specialist in early modern literary culture, Ruth’s publications include The Rise of Prison Literature in the Sixteenth Century (2013) and an edited collection, Re-forming the Psalms in Tudor England (2015). Since 2012, Ruth’s work has increasingly focused on applying data science to research in the humanities. Her recent publications include The Network Turn: Changing Perspectives in the Humanities (2020, with Sebastian E. Ahnert, Nicole Coleman and Scott Weingart) and Collaborative Historical Research in the Age of Big Data (2023, with Emma GriffinMia Ridge and Giorgia Tolfo) which draws on her experience of interdisciplinary project work as Principal Investigator for Living with Machines based at the British Library and Alan Turing Institute. 
  • Dan Edelstein is William H. Bonsall Professor of French History at Stanford University, CA. A specialist in the history of eighteenth-century France and European intellectual life, Dan’s many publications include The Terror of Natural Right: Republicanism, the Cult of Nature, and the French Revolution (2009), The Enlightenment: A Genealogy (2010), and Let there Be Enlightenment (2018, co-edited with Anton Matytsin). Dan’s digital history experience is as lead investigator on the NEH-funded digital humanities project Mapping the Republic of Letters. This international collaborative project, aims to map the correspondence and social networks of major intellectual figures in the enlightenment era.
  • Maryanne Koweleski is Joseph Fitzpatrick SJ Distinguished Professor Emerita of History and Medieval Studies at Fordham University, New York. Maryanne’s research interests include the professional lives of those resident in medieval and early modern London, South-West England and – most recently – the English coast and seafaring communities. Her publications include edited collections on Medieval Domesticity: Home, Housing and Household in Medieval England (2009) and Reading and Writing in Late Medieval England (2019). Maryanne is also the project lead for the Medieval Londoners Database, a digital prosopography which records the activities of London residents between c.1100 and 1520, and about which Maryanne has recently published here.
  • Jon Lawrence is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Exeter. Specialising in social, cultural and political history, Jon’s recent books include Me, Me, Me? The Search for Community in Post-War England (2019) and Electing Our Masters: the Hustings in British Politics from Hogarth to Blair (2009). He is currently a Co-Investigator on the interdisciplinary UKRI/AHRC project Living with Machines based at the Turing Institute and British Library which seeks to transform our ability to study the history of modern Britain at scale.
  • Katrina Navickas is Professor of History at the University of Hertfordshire and an expert in history of protest and collective action, and contested spaces in Britain from the eighteenth century to today. Her publications include Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1848 (2015) and Loyalism and Radicalism in Lancashire, 1798-1815 (2009). Katrina’s work engages extensively and collaboratively with digital resources and practices, with a focus on mapping and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Watch the video of this panel


More on the Royal Historical Society’s events programme, 2023 >