reading / digital humanities

Reading time:
3 min. | 513 words

This post by Rafael Alvarado has been making the rounds on Twitter and got me thinking about, more specifically, what material would be a useful introduction to digital history (as opposed to digital humanities). Here’s my list in chronological order:

  1. Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” The Atlantic (July 1945)
  2. Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors: Psycho-History, Quanta-History and History (1974)
  3. Roy Rosenzweig, Steve Brier, and Josh Brown, Who Built America? From the Centennial Exposition of 1876 to the Great War of 1914, CD-ROM (1993)
  4. Roy Rosenzweig and Michael O’Malley, “Brave New World or Blind Alley? American History on the World Wide Web,” JAH (1997)
  5. Edward Ayers, “The Pasts and Futures of Digital History” (1999)
  6. Edward Ayers, “History in Hypertext” (1999)
  7. Robert Darnton, “An Early Information Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-century Paris” AHR (2000)
  8. Philip J. Ethington, “Los Angeles and the Problem of Urban Historical Knowledge” (2000)
  9. Roy Rosenzweig and Michael O’Malley, “The Road to Xanadu: Public and Private Pathways on the History Web,” JAH (2001)
  10. David Staley, Computers, Visualization, and History: How New Technology will Transform Our Understanding of the Past (2002)
  11. Orville Burton, Computing in the Social Sciences and Humanities (2002)
  12. Edward Ayers and William G. Thomas, The Valley of the Shadow (2003)
  13. Edward Ayers and William G. Thomas, “The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities,” AHR (2003)
  14. Roy Rosenzweig, “Scracity or Abudance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era” AHR (2003)
  15. Dan Cohen, “History and the Second Decade of the Web,” Rethinking History (2004)
  16. William G. Thomas, “Computing and the Historical Imagination” (2004)
  17. Edward L. Ayers, “Doing Scholarship on the Web: Ten Years of Triumphs–And A Disappointment” Journal of Scholarly Publishing (2004)
  18. Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving and Presenting the Past on the Web (2005)
  19. William G. Thomas, “Writing a Digital History Journal Article from Scratch: An Account,” Digital History (2007)
  20. William Turkel, The Programming Historian (2008)
  21. Andrew Torget, Texas Slavery Project (2008)
  22. Interchange: The Promise of Digital History,” JAH (2008)
If you were completely new to digital history and trying to get a grasp of what it was about and what it entailed, this is the list I would probably hand you. The texts might be a bit heavy on the development of digital history as a field rather than the theory of digital history, but at twenty-two books, essays, and projects, I thought I’d cut the list off before it became unwieldy. Perhaps I’ll add a post about reading material for a theory of digital history to my blog post idea list (which grows and grows…). Clearly, this list is not a definite canon of digital history, but I think it gives you a good picture of where the field has been and where it might be going. I’ve tried to catalogue a variety of projects and reading material that I found important to my understanding how the field has (and is) developed.

Any other suggestions? Nit-picks? Disagreements? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

EDIT: Fixed link on the Thomas (2007) piece.


Greetings! My name is Jason Heppler. I am a Digital Engagement Librarian and Assistant Professor of History at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a scholar of the twentieth-century United States. I often write here about the history of the North American West, technology, the environment, cities, politics, and coffee. You can follow me on Twitter, or learn more about me.