The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, published initially in 2004, is the work of roughly 10,000 scholars, runs to 60 volumes in print, and is made up of more than 62 million words. So immense is the ODNB that one early reviewer complained, ‘reviewing it is like exploring a continent by rowing boat’: ‘If you were to read one life in the new DNB every day you would take 137 years to finish it.’ Information overload is not a new problem in the humanities, but Christopher Howse’s analogy helpfully suggests why an engine of some sort might be desirable in studying historiography at scale. In this presentation, Chris will use digital humanities methods to map the people, places, and professions of the ODNB in a new way.
Christopher Warren is Associate Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, where he teaches early modern studies, law and literature, and digital humanities. He is the author of Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680 (OUP, 2015), which was awarded the 2016 Roland H. Bainton Prize for Literature by the Sixteenth Century Society. With Daniel Shore, he is co-founder of Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, a collaborative reconstruction of Britain’s early modern social network. His articles have appeared in journals including Humanity; Law, Culture, and the Humanities; The European Journal of International Law; English Literary Renaissance; and Digital Humanities Quarterly. His current projects include work on anachronism and presentism in the history of international law and a “distant reading” of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.