Building a Data API for Historical Research

We are in the process of building out a data API to support the data work we’re undertaking with the transcription of the plague bills. We anticipate hundreds of thousands of rows of data by the end of our transcription process, and we wanted an easy and efficient way to work with that data. As part of our work in data-driven historical research at RRCHNM, we are building a data API to store and access data from databases. Following the process of transforming the DataScribe transcriptions into tidy data, the resulting data is uploaded to a PostgreSQL database where we can take advantage of relational connections among the different datasets we’ve compiled.  The advantage of having our data structured this way is we can keep our data consistent (PostgreSQL enforces strongly-typed data) and we can more easily combine data into different configurations based on what […]

Visualizing the Bills of Mortality

One of the ways we are using the transcribed bills of mortality is in data visualization and mapping, in an effort to ask new questions and revisit old ones. At the Southern History Association’s annual meeting in Baltimore, we presented preliminary work on data visualization and the data API. An interactive notebook on this early work is available on Observable for perusal (note, the page may take a moment to load the 100,000+ records). You may also make a copy of this notebook to your own Observable account to edit.

London in Tears: Grief and Collective Mourning in the Bills of Mortality

“London might be said to be all in tears; the mourners did not go about the streets indeed, for nobody put on black or made a formal dress of mourning for their nearests friends; but the voice of mourners was truly heard in the Streets” (Defoe, 19). Although Daniel Defoe’s description of London during the outbreak of 1665-1666 jogs our memories during the early days of the Sars-CoV- 2 virus—where the sick passed away separated from their loved ones, and families were forced to say goodbye apart from their kin—the culture of grief has indeed changed. This blog post examines grief as a vehicle for the exploration of some aspects of the death culture in early Modern England. The experiences of grief and mourning shed light on both the idea of loss at an individual level, and on changing commemorative and memorial practices in England […]