Digital Humanities projects increasingly offer a range of advantage and utility to the academic community. They can provide useful tools for analysis and visualization of data, giving historians and others new avenues for research. They are a means by which scholars can make their work accessible to broader audiences. Consequently, they also act as a venue for collaboration with an expanding range of professional and amateur scholars from across the globe. This section of my profile highlights two of my ongoing digital projects, both of which are housed at my Historia Cartarum website.
Each listing has a synopsis of the project. To read further, click the inverted caret ( ) to expand the section.
The Mapping Mandeville Project
Synopsis: A website combing an image of the Hereford map and text from The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, and offering a tool for teaching the world of the text.
This project is a pedagogical effort meant to facilitate the teaching the 14th century travelogue, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Mandeville’s book is often difficult for undergraduate students to work with, in part because the geography that the text describes seems so foreign. Students attempting to place the book in a GIS framework fail, and then lose interest in the text. I argue, though, that Mandeville’s book articulates a coherent set of geographic principals that it holds in common with a genre of graphic maps — the medieval mappaemundi. That, in short, we need to treat Mandeville as a map, and to teach it as such. This project layers excerpts from Mandeville’s book onto a 1989 reproduction of the Hereford map, with the goal of demonstrating to students the viability of the book’s internal world. This approach to teaching the text requires additional work in terms of teaching some basic principals of medieval maps to students, but I believe that it offers students the chance for better engagement with the text.
Project note: I have anecdotal, but first-hand, reports of this project being used to supplement the teaching of Mandeville’s Travels in numerous university English and History departments, both in the United States and internationally.
The English Eel-Rents Project
Synopsis: A set of maps and data detailing my research into the details and meanings of medieval English eel-rents.
This project sprang out of my dissertation work trying to establish the place of eels in the English cultural landscape. I became interested in the question of eel-rents, a specific type of in-kind tax of eels that became increasingly less common over the course of the medieval period. My work suggests that eel-rents were more common than has generally been thought, with a broader geographic distribution. Moreover, I argue that eel-rents continued as a part of English cultural and economic life than is generally thought. The Eel-Rents Project began as an effort to map the eel-rents by century, with the goal of better understanding how far these rents traveled, what size eels were used in this way, and in what state the eels were when they were paid as a de facto currency. This is currently the only publicly available single-site source for anyone interested in questions related to the role of eels in medieval England.