HIST 300a – Digitizing History

HIST 300a poster 2
HIST 300A – Digitizing History teaches how to conduct history projects in the 21st century through documentary film-making, web-design, and best practices in the digital humanities. Students will explore a variety of contemporary models for the production and consumption of historical information on the web — including commercial, non-profit, and government databases, as well as public history, journalistic, and other websites.  They will then create a documentary film using professional equipment, to be housed on an interactive website of their own creation.

Website, Syllabus, and Projects

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UNR Campus Conferences: Big Data



Christopher Church, Assistant Professor, History
NLP and OCR: the View from the Humanities Natural Language Processing (NLP) presents numerous opportunities for humanities research, particularly in the field of history. For one, NLP allows historians to overcome their current inability to look at cultural memes in context ­to see how much or frequently something was said relative to everything else that was said. Additionally, it enables historians to create maps of linguistic and cultural change over time, or to paint a synchronic picture of a particular decade, movement, or ideology. In short, it allows historians-and humanists more generally-to obtain a bird’s-eye view of their material. However, there are real challenges to performing NLP on historical documents, namely issues related to Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Rather than relying upon “born-digital;’ “found” or “curated” data sets, historians must create their data themselves from oftentimes spotty archives, degraded materials, or handwritten documents. This presentation will explore the importance of OCR to NLP in the humanities, while attending to the pitfalls of relying too heavily on curated data and proposing some ways to overcome the inherent messiness of the data with which humanists wrestle.

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Adding Unique Identifiers in OpenRefine

Sometimes you may want to add unique identifiers (UIDs) to your data in OpenRefine (eg. migrating the data into a Database Management System (DBMS) like Access or Filemaker).

It’s nice to have a set number of leading zeroes, especially if you’ll sort your data alphabetically.

To do this, you’ll need to add a new column based on any column, which will bring up a dialogue window.  Edit column > Add column based on this column…


For your GREL (Google Refine Expression Language) expression, enter the following:

      “0000”[0,4-row.index.length()] + row.index


* Make sure to enter a column name (above circled in blue).

* * *

Here’s what the GREL means:

  • row.index” is a controlled term for the number of the row counting from the top (beginning with 0)
  • “0000” is a string of four zeroes that will be spliced into the index.
  • row.index.length() is how many characters make up row.index (treating it as a string) — so “1981” would have a length of 4, whereas “30” would have a length of 2.
  • [0,4-row.index.length()] slices the string of zeroes to match however many are needed to bring the total number of numeric places to 4. If the index is “13” (length of 2 characters) and you want a total four numbers (0013), then it will take only 2 zeros from the string.
  • finally, “+ row.index” concatenates the original index to the preceding zeros. — so in the case of the above example, it’ll add together “00” and “13” to get “0013”

You can increase the number of leading zeroes to however many you need, but you’ll need to make a few changes.

  1. First, you’ll need to update “0000” to match however many number places you want.
  2. Then you’ll need to change 4-row.index…. to X-row.index….. — where X equals the number of number places.

For example, if you want to increase the total number places to 6, change the expression to

  • “000000”[0,6-row.index.length()] + row.index
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Digital Humanities at Berkeley, Summer Institute


This workshop will discuss methods of data retrieval, data cleaning, and visualization.  Participants will discuss how websites are structured and learn how to collect a data set with webscraping.  Participants will learn how to use tools like OpenRefine for cleaning and transforming data and then visualize data using Gephi, an open source tool for network analysis.

Syllabus – Network Analysis


Christopher Church is an assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno. Before joining the history department at UNR, he was the Program Coordinator at UC Berkeley’s D-Lab. He studies colonialism, citizenship, and environmental history. He is well versed in databases, GIS, scripting, network analysis, and web design. He is tasked with developing a digital humanities curriculum at UNR.



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Human Face of Big Data (April 30, 2015)

human-face-big-data2_april2015 human-face-big-data3_april2015 human-face-big-date_april2015

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The Human Face of Big Data (April 30, 7pm)


The Human Face of Big Data: the Promise and Perils of a Planetary Nervous System

Come watch the award-wining documentary, The Human Face of Big Data.
Thursday, April 30, 7pm – Wells Fargo Auditorium (MIKC 124)

Stay for hors d’oeuvres and a panel discussion featuring UNR faculty:

  • Dr. Chris Church, Dept. of History
  • Dr. Katherine Hepworth, Dept. of Journalism
  • Kari Barber, MFA, Dept. of Journalism
  • Dr. David Alvarez, Dept. of Biology
  • Dr. Nicholas Seltzer, Dept. of Political Philosophy


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Fight For Your Right to Think film festival

Thursdays in March, 7pm
MIKC 124, Wells Fargo Auditorium


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Pryor’s Peoria Nominated for a DH Award

Pryor’s Peoria has been nominated for “Best Use of DH For Public Engagement.” Voting is determined by popular vote, so if you like the project, please vote!

227px-Red_Checkmark.svg_ Click here to vote!

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HIST703 – Introduction to Digital History for Graduate Students



Welcome to HIST 703: Introduction to Digital History! This is where you will blog about your experience this semester. You’ll respond to the readings on the syllabus, essentially creating an online annotated bibliography of the semester’s readings. You will also blog about new tools you’ve found, other readings on digital history you’ve read (outside of the official reading list), ideas you have for projects, and your experience with learning technical skills, from databases to XML to Python.

You are encouraged to comment on each other’s posts, as well as read them. We’re all in this together as we explore what it means to do digital history.


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HIST 498 (Adv Topics): Sugar, Slaves, and Revolution: Caribbean History



The modern world was forged in the coves of the Caribbean. Its pirates and smugglers built and destroyed European states; its sugar plantations started the industrial revolution; its revolutionaries changed how Western societies think about liberty and justice; and its philosophers have defined social identity in the modern world. This course will examine Caribbean history from Columbus to Blackbeard to Toussaint Louverture to CLR James to Bob Marley, looking at how the region’s constant struggle between freedom and slavery, between unity and disunity, has shaped the world we live in today.

Required Texts

Textbook: The Caribbean: History of the Region and its Peoples. (txtbk)

Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power



Week 1: The Pre-Columbus Caribbean: 7200 BC – AD 1492

Tu: Syllabus and Welcome

Th: The First Peoples and their Geography

· David Barker, “Geographies of Opportunity, Geographies of Constraint”, 25-38 (txtbk)

· L. Antonio Curet, “The Earliest Settlers,” 53-68 (txtbk)

Week 2: The Columbian Cataclysm: 1492 – 1630

Tu: First Encounters and the Columbian Exchange

Th: Discussion

· Reinaldo Funes Monzote, “The Columbian Moment: Politics, Ideology, and Biohistory,” 83-96 (txtbk)

· Lynne A. Guitar, “Negotiations of Conquest,” 115-130 (txtbk)

Week 3: A New World with the Old World’s Problems

Tu: Crusades, Millennialism, and the Caribbean

Th: Discussion

· Pauline Moffitt Watts. “Science, Religion, and Columbus’s Enterprise of the Indies.” OAH Magazine of History, 5(4). 14-17.

· William Phillips. “Old World Precedents: Sugar and Slavery in the Mediterranean.” 69-79 (txtbk)

Week 4: Plantations and the Rise of Agro-Industrial Capital: 1630 – 1770

Tu: The Sugar Revolution

Th: Discussion

· Hilary Beckles, “Servants and Slaves during the 17th Century Sugar Revolution” 205-216 (txtbk)

– Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power.

Week 5: Challenges to the Caribbean Order: 1630 – 1720

Tu: The Golden Age of Piracy and the Caribbean Alternative

Th: Discussion

· Isaac Curtis, “Masterless People: Maroons, Pirates, and Commoners,” 149-162. (txtbk)

Week 6: Unfree Labor, Forced Migration, and Slave Society: 1630-1770

Tu: The Slave Trade

Th: Discussion

· Carrington and Noel. “Slaves and Tropical Commodities: The Caribbean in the South Atlantic System,” 231-242. (txtbk)

Week 7: Rebels and Revolutionaries: 1770-1870

Tu: Maroons and Slave Resistance

Th: Discussion

· Philip Morgan, “Slave Cultures: Systems of Domination and Forms of Resistance,” 245-261 (txtbk)

· Richard Price, “Maroons and their Communities.” pp 1-30 in Maroon Societies.

Week 8: Rebels and Revolutionaries: 1770-1870

Tu: The Age of Atlantic Revolutions

Th: Discussion

· Laurent Dubois, “The Haitian Revolution,” 273-286 (txtbk)

· Robert Whitney, “War and Nation Building: Cuban and Dominican Experience.” 361-372. (txtbk)

Week 9: Midterm

Tu: Review

Th: Midterm

Week 10: Abolition and the Rise of Labor: 1807 – 1900

Tu: Abolition: Causes and Effects

Th: Discussion

– Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery

· Dale Toich, “Econocide: From Abolition to Emancipation in the British and French Caribbean.” 303-316 (txtbk)

Week 11: What has Changed? : 1807 – 1900

Tu: There’s Revolution and then there’s Revolution

Th: Discussion

· Christpher Schmidt-Nowara. “A Second Slavery: the 19th-Century Sugar Revolutions in Cuba and Puerto Rico.” 333-345 (txtbk)

· Gad Heuman. “Peasants, Immigrants, and Workers: The British and French Caribbean after Emancipation.” 347-360 (txtbk)

Week 12: America and New Imperialism: 1898 – 1945

Tu: The US Walks Softly: Caribbean Occupation and the American Empire

Th: Discussion

· Cesar Ayala, “The American Sugar Kingdom. 1898-1934” 433-444 (txtbk)

– Hans Schmidt. “Introduction,” United States Occupation of Haiti: 1915-1934, 1-18.

Week 13: The Caribbean Since 1945

Tu: Decolonization and the Empire Strikes Back

Th: Discussion

· Humberto Garcia Muniz. “The Colonial Persuasion: Puerto Rico and the Dutch and French Antilles.” 537-551 (txtbk)

· Anne Macpherson. “Toward Decolonization: Impulses, Processes, and Consequences since the 1930s.” 475-488. (txtbk)

Week 14: The Caribbean Since 1945

Tu: The Cuban Revolution

Th: Discussion

· Michael Zueske, “The Long Cuban Revolution.” 507-522 (txtbk)

· Marifeli Perez-Stable. “Revolution and Radical Nationalism, 1959-1961,” The Cuban Revolution. 61-81

Week 15: Independence? American and European Hegemony

Tu: Tourism and the New Plantations

Th: Discussion

· Robert Goddard. “Tourism, Drugs, Offshore Finance, and the Perils of Neoliberal Development.” 571-582. (txtbk)

· Ian Strachan. “Introduction: Paradise Discourse.” Paradise and Plantation. 1-16

Week 16: Tying it all Together

Tu: The History of a Fragmented Nationalism

Th: Review

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