Canadian Economic Historians Win Big Grants From Digging Into Data

5 01 2012

Back in March 2011, I posted to this blog about Round 2 of the Digging into Data project, a joint initiative of national funding councils in several Western nations.  The first round of the Digging into Data Challenge sparked enormous interest from the international research community and led to eight cutting-edge projects being funded. There has also been increased media attention to the question of so-called “big data” techniques being used for humanities and social sciences research, including a recent cover article in the journal Science.

In June 2011, teams of scholars submitted their proposals for Round 2. These teams were interdisciplinary and included academics in more than one of the participating countries.

Today, we learned that two of the winners of this hyper-competitive grant contest were teams that plan to work on topics connected to Canadian economic history.

The first of these teams is led by Canadian economic historian named Kris Inwood. Inwood’s project will involve linking together census data from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom from the 19th and early 20th centuries in ways that will allow researchers to track the migration of individuals  examine the effects of economic opportunity, mobility and health on social structures in Europe and North America. The Canadian data will come from censuses 1851 between 1911.
The second of these teams includes Colin Coates of York University. Its project is called Trading Consequences.

Description: (Taken from the Digging into Data press releaseThis project will examine the economic and environmental consequences of commodity trading during the nineteenth century. The project team will be using information extraction techniques to study large corpora of digitized documents from the nineteenth century. This innovative digital resource will allow historians to discover novel patterns and to explore new hypotheses, both through structured query and through a variety of visualization tools.


The eight sponsoring funding bodies include the Arts & Humanities Research Council (United Kingdom), the Economic & Social Research Council (United Kingdom), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (United States), the Joint Information Systems Committee (United Kingdom), theNational Endowment for the Humanities (United States), the National Science Foundation(United States), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (Netherlands), and theSocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada).

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