Article ID: CBB012323415

The History of Science and the Science of History: Computational Methods, Algorithms, and the Future of the Field (2019)


Many researchers insist that computational methods will transform the historical profession, while an equally large number reject these claims as unwarranted hype. This study attempts to place the debate in historical and social context. The essay is divided into three parts. The first part offers a brief review of computational history. It asks whether the “computational turn” bears any resemblance to quantitative history and how it fits within the digital humanities. The second part describes the authors’ recent attempts to apply computational methods to an existing project in the history of science using a standardized workflow. It demonstrates that each step of the workflow adds another layer of subjectivity. The third part reflects on what computational methods mean for the historical profession. It systematically reviews the positive aspects of computational history (open access, interdisciplinary collaboration, and new perspectives) as well as the negative aspects (inequality, fragility, and the threat of automation) and offers prescriptions based on the authors’ experiences.

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Authors & Contributors
Damerow, Julia
Laubichler, Manfred Dietrich
Lolli, Gabriele
Wittkower, D. E.
Selinger, Evan
Rush, Lucinda
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
Intersezioni: Rivista di Storia delle ldee
Research in Philosophy and Technology
Studia Historiae Scientiarum
Science, Technology and Human Values
MIT Press
Cambridge University Press
Princeton University Press
Computational methods
Open access
Digital humanities
Publishers and publishing
Data collection; methods
Communication of scientific ideas
Vand, Vladimir
Vallisneri, Antonio
United States
Babylon (extinct city)
Ancient Near and Middle East: Egypt, Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Persia
21st century
20th century, late
20th century, early
20th century
19th century
17th century
Club of Rome
Galaxy Zoo

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