Geographical information in historical research: current progress and future directions

I. G. Gregory, K. K. Kemp, R. Mostern

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Information about places is ubiquitous in the study of history, events occur, people live, and phenomena flourish in more or less identifiable locations. To a greater or lesser extent, all historians make use of geographical information. Potentially, there is a great potential for the use of Geographical Information System s (GIS) in the discipline. However, GIS with origins in the earth sciences and the way that those disciplines model the world, is still based largely on the traditions and requirements of these fields. This means that while there are many advantages to using GIS in historical research, these technologies and analytical approaches must be applied with caution, based on the characteristics of historical data and the traditions of historical scholarship. In this paper we define GIS and explain why it is relevant to historical research. We then use a wide variety of examples to illustrate the ways in which historians are beginning to use GIS. Finally, we discuss how existing software and methods for working with geographic information need to be improved to make it more applicable to historical research. Our aim is to demonstrate that GIS, if properly used, is not only applicable to quantitative, scientific historical paradigms, but is also extensible to the more humanities-driven, qualitative areas of the discipline.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7-23
    Number of pages17
    JournalHistory and Computing
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003


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