Why Humanists Should Fall in Love with “Big Data,” and How?

Maps show historical continuity. Here is a map of high speed railways in China as of 2011 (red lines) displayed on top of Ming dynasty courier stops (blue dots). Certainly there are interesting differences, but the overlap between the two transportation networks separated by several centuries is all the more striking (…).China_SHOP_SongChen-2Maps show historical change. Look at the following set of maps, showing from where prefectural governors in the 1040s (map 2a) and the 1210s (map 2b) hailed. Different spatial patterns stand out immediately. Prefects of the 1040s came predominantly from the Song capital region (Kaifeng and Luoyang), while the vast majority of those in the 1210s hailed from a stretch of prefectures located along the southeast coast. To me, this contrast suggests very different logics of political success in the two periods. In the 1040s, as in the late Tang, the capital monopolized cultural and political resources essential for climbing the ladder of success. In the 1210s, by contrast, economic prosperity seems to be what was at work (…).

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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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