2014-15 History Speaker Series continues with Mapping London's Global Hinterlands: Spatial Text Mining Eight Million Pages of Nineteenth Century Texts, presented by the University of Saskatchewan's Professor Jim Clifford.
This special edition of the History Speaker Series will include a tour of the Geospatial Centre's resources available to historians, led by the Geospatial Data Services Librarian, Eva Dodsworth, and the History Librarian, Jane Forgay.
Dr Jim Clifford
The environmental consequences of London’s industrial revolution reached far beyond the city’s immediate hinterlands. By the second half of the nineteenth century many of the raw materials consumed by London’s factories originated overseas. Local industries imported the raw materials needed to produce soap, candles, bread, margarine, marmalade, quinine (an anti-malarial drug), mackintosh rain jackets, leather shoes, wooden furniture and many other products. The thousands of factories in Greater London, which have been identified and mapped using Ordnance Survey maps and fire insurance plans, relied on the import of increasing quantities of hundreds of different commodities from an ever-expanding number of locations around the world.
The scope of this project, which relies on the extensive records produced by imperial administrators, merchants, industrialist, and botanical gardens, is made feasible by the application of digital techniques, including text mining, relational databases, geographic information systems mapping (GIS) and information visualization. These new methods allow us to move beyond the study of single prominent commodities – sugar, coffee, or cotton – and map the larger trend of the development of global supply chains. In particular, we utilized a text-mined geo-database and visualization interface created by the Trading Consequences project. We mined information on the geographical locations related to the extraction, production and transfer of hundreds of different types of raw materials throughout the British world from over eight million pages of scanned nineteenth-century documents. The resulting database provides a new source to explore the spread of commodity frontiers, the expansion of global trade and the resulting environmental consequences. This presentation will discuss the challenges of using geo-parsing on digitized nineteenth century sources and then discuss my recent efforts to map the global nineteenth century supply chains of London’s industries.
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