World History Methods: Digital Methods for the Spatial Analysis of the Past

We 2:30 PM-4:55 PM / 3700 Wesley W Posvar Hall / CRN 2935
Over the past two to three decades, scholars in the humanities and social sciences have increasingly referred to a “spatial turn” toward increasing attention to the place of geography and landscape in understanding society and culture. Historians have taken up the term spatial history to describe the ways in which they articulate geographical perspectives from their particular disciplinary approach. The reach of approachable desktop GIS and database design platforms, accessible satellite imagery, and online mapping has amplified these trends. 
This seminar is an introduction to exemplary projects, applied methods, and techniques and tools for spatial analysis of the human past. It is also an effort to bring together several approaches that are not yet frequently joined. For instance, spatial history theory, method and exemplar are not well integrated, and we will approach the field from all three of these perspectives. Moreover, spatial history is seldom practiced at the global scale. World historians have not yet “put the world in world history.” 
This class includes reading in theory and exemplars, interaction with online projects, and hands-on work with digital archives and tools. By the end of the class, students should understand the state of the art and possible future trajectories of spatial history as a field and its relationship to the field of world history. They will also have completed a spatial history project at the global scale and articulated its significance and scholarly contribution. Student work will also include reading responses and archive and website assessments throughout the semester.
This hands-on class will expose students to a range of tools, platforms and methods, but it will not involve in-depth training in GIS. I do not presume that students have any particular technical background or aspirations about using computational techniques after this semester, although it is intended to provide exposure to useful tools for those who intend to do so.


Number of Credits


Ruth Mostern

Course Term


Course Category

Category D: Designated Courses

Course Year