Historian & Data Explorer

Docu Narratives

The compound term Docu-Narrative emphasizes the multilayered nature of data-driven scholarship, particularly its two major components:

  1. Docu- for documentation: describe the methodology in transparent terms to make the experiment fully reproducible and contribute to a new digital hermeneutics (Fickers, 2020), bringing historical hermeneutics closer to the conditions of validity, traceability and replicability required for scientific research (Nelson, 2017)
  2. Narrative: reminds us of the ultimate purpose of historical scholarship, i.e. to tell a story that offers a plausible representation of the past.

Each block of docu-narratives below is based on a concrete case study rooted in modern China. Most documents use R Markdown language. Data and R projects can be accessed on GitLab

The Rotary Club in China

This series of docu-narratives aims to demonstrate how historians of modern China can take advantage of the “enpchina” R package to explore massive press corpora. Based on a concrete case study – the Rotary Club of Shanghai 上海扶輪社 (Shanghai fulunshe) - we focus on the leading Chinese newspaper Shenbao 申報 (1872-1949) and the ProQuest Chinese Newspapers Collection that contains a dozen of English-language periodicals published in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou between 1850 and the early 1950s.

The Rotary Club in the Chinese Press: A Practical Guide to the “enpchina” R package. This guide shows how historians can take advantage of the “enpchina” R package to explore the entire collection of the Chinese newspaper Shenbao 申報 taking the Rotary Club of Shanghai上海扶輪社 (Shanghai fulunshe) as a case study (Rmd version).

The Rotary Club in the English-language press: A Practical Guide to the “enpchina” R package. This guide shows how historians can take advantage of the “enpchina” R package to explore the entire ProQuest Chinese Newspapers Collection taking the Rotary Club of Shanghai as a case study (Rmd version).

American University Men of China

This tutorial series applies a place-based methodology to study Sino-American alumni networks in modern China, based on a directory of the American University Club of Shanghai published in 1936. It is divided into four parts:

1. Find and analyze places using the R package “Places” (html version, Markdown version)

2. From places to networks (a dual approach): Build, visualize and analyze place-based networks using igraph (html version, Markdown version).

3. Community detection in place-based networks (igraph): Identify and analyze subgroups of places (igraph) (html version, Markdown version).

4. Place formation over time: Create period-based subnetworks to analyze the formation of academic places between 1883 and 1935 (html version, Markdown version).

Mapping the Transnational Public Sphere

The following docu-narratives revisit the old debate on the Chinese public sphere through the joint empirical study of two key institutions – a transnational organization (the Rotary Club) and the Shanghai press, which has been recognized as the first mass medium for disseminating information in modern China and which constituted the very venue through which non-state organizations like the Rotary Club shaped their social and discursive practices. Methodologically, this research relies on structural topic modeling to map out the four modus operandi of the transnational public sphere from a bilingual and dynamic perspective during the troubled decades between the end of WWI and the Communist revolution (1919-1949).

  • Topic modeling the Chinese press (Shenbao): full code here
  • Topic modeling the English-language press (ProQuest): full code here
  • Appendix (summary tables of topics)