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Towards the Social, Spatial, and Discursive Patterns in Medieval Inquisitorial Records: Data Collection and Analysis in the Dissident Networks Project

Zbíral, D.; Shaw, R. L. J.; Hampejs, T.; Mertel, A.


This paper presents an approach to the collection of structured relational data which we have developed over the last 2.5 years in the Dissident Networks Project (DISSINET, Our goal has been to devise a data model and environment capable of capturing the detail of inquisitorial records: the persons, groups, events, attitudes and physical objects they describe, the reported social, spatial and temporal relations between them, but also the modality of speech (negation, question, possibility etc.), the chain of information flow in inquisitorial records (e.g. who is reporting what and when, who is inculpating whom), and the different modes of trial interaction and recording. We thus preserve the semantic structure and detail of our sources. The data thus collected then allows us to analyze the social, spatial, and discursive patterns of inquisitorial records, heresy trials, and medieval religious dissent using a variety of computational and quantitative methods, such as social and spatial network analysis, geographic information science, and natural language processing. In addition, our data model and the experience gained from devising it will be of interest even beyond heresy and inquisition research, above all to historians keen to explore the possibilities of analysis of structured data while preserving the detail and the discursive patterns of their sources.

Keywords: digital humanities; spatial humanities; textual mining; text processing; data collection

  • Lecture (Conference) (Online presentation)
    International Medieval Congress 2021, 05.-9.7.2021, online, online


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