Years ago, while preparing for a lecture, I ran across a GIF depicting the territorial expansion of the United States. While I am unsure of its origins, I’ve seen similar maps in textbooks, Wikipedia articles, and Google images. The GIF—a simple rotating set of maps of the contiguous 48 states—swiftly changes color as the United States expands its territorial claims throughout the 19th century. Behind this series of images lies tremendous suffering; the projection of one on top of the other makes this effect especially jarring.
“Wait, what just happened?” exclaimed one of my students. Last year, my US history class and I spent a day with Gapminder, a graph-based visualization program that charts more than 50 different historical indicators, from per-capita income, birth rate, and life expectancy to coal consumption and Internet use, on a Cartesian x-y axis over the course of 200+ years of world history.
By Lauren Tilton
It can be challenging to teach about the civil rights movement. For many reasons, from time constraints to lack of access to archives, the liberation struggle is often framed through its most prominent leader, Martin Luther King Jr. Now, thanks to a partnership between Duke University and the SNCC Legacy Project, an organization comprised of SNCC participants, teachers have access to the SNCC Digital Gateway.
In 2005, David Foster Wallace told the graduating class of Kenyon College a joke:
“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”
By Kalani Craig
The lowly charter.
It lives in infamy, perhaps because charters—written records that cemented a variety of agreements about sales, leases, officeholders, and a host of other legal transactions—are simultaneously rich treasure troves of historical information and, when you read a lot of them in a row, sleep-inducing.
For the past 10 years digital archives and crowdsourcing have been popular forms of digital history, as scholars have harnessed the power of both massive servers and a willing public to digitize and transcribe diverse types of historical material ranging from menus to weather reports. Few have excited me as much as Colored Conventions. A work of impressive scholarship, important activism, and valuable pedagogy, the Colored Conventions Project (CCP) hits for the cycle. The primary goal of the CCP is to recover an understudied aspect of the 19th-century reform movement, black conventions.
One of the most impressive archives on the web, Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database is the product of a massive undertaking from a network of scholars, technology experts, and government organizations from around the world who have invested thousands of hours into building a database of nearly 36,000 slaving voyages. Users can search the database using a variety of variables including a ship’s name, year of arrival, number of captives transported, outcome of voyage, embarkation and disembarkation locations, and the ship’s flag.