- Jan 2023
My plan is to make some sort of physical timeline eventually, but while analog does feel a little "fixed" for this purpose, I want the shear size and the speed of cards.Do you happen to know what historians used to do before computers?
reply to u/stjeromeslibido at https://www.reddit.com/r/antinet/comments/10nlu4l/comment/j6bdgma/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3
I've used data from my own cards to create timelines before using the Knightlab's TimelineJS tool: https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=18QD2-Kx0WdFBzqDv1sTkQWOJLGHGXsvr4NBLYNiX9FA&font=Default&lang=en&initial_zoom=2&height=650%27%20width=%27100%%27%20height=%27650%27%20webkitallowfullscreen%20mozallowfullscreen%20allowfullscreen%20frameborder=%270%27
You'll note that it's got a fun card-like flavor to its design. 🤩
Historically, while they had certainly done so much earlier, historians began doubling down on slip-based research work flows in the late 1800's. Many in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were heavily influenced by the idea of "historical method" or the German "Wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens". Primary sources going back over a century have included:
- Bernheim, Ernst. Lehrbuch der historischen Methode und der Geschichtsphilosophie : mit Nachweis der wichtigsten Quellen und Hilfsmittelzum Studium der Geschichte ... völlig neu bearbeitete und vermehrte Auflage. 1889. Reprint, Leipzig : Duncker, 1903. http://archive.org/details/lehrbuchderhisto00bernuoft.
- Langlois, Charles Victor, and Charles Seignobos. Introduction to the Study of History. Translated by George Godfrey Berry. First. New York: Henry Holt and company, 1898. http://archive.org/details/cu31924027810286.
- Dow, Earle Wilbur. Principles of a Note-System for Historical Studies. New York: Century Company, 1924.
- Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. The Modern Researcher. New York, Harcourt, Brace, 1957. http://archive.org/details/modernreseracher0000unse.
- Eco, Umberto. How to Write a Thesis. Translated by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina. 1977. Reprint, Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2015. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/how-write-thesis.
A few prime examples of historians practicing this sort of card index method (though not necessarily in the same form as Niklas Luhmann) include:
- Thomas, Keith. “Diary: Working Methods.” London Review of Books, June 10, 2010. https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v32/n11/keith-thomas/diary.
- Pomeroy, Earl. “Frederic L. Paxson and His Approach to History.” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 39, no. 4 (1953): 673–92. https://doi.org/10.2307/1895394.
- Aldrich, Chris. “S.D. Goitein’s Card Index (or Zettelkasten).” BoffoSocko (blog), January 15, 2023. https://boffosocko.com/2023/01/14/s-d-goiteins-card-index-or-zettelkasten/.
- Lustig, Jason. “‘Mere Chips from His Workshop’: Gotthard Deutsch’s Monumental Card Index of Jewish History.” History of the Human Sciences 32, no. 3 (July 1, 2019): 49–75. https://doi.org/10.1177/0952695119830900.
- Goutor, Jacques. The Card-File System of Note-Taking. Approaching Ontario’s Past 3. Toronto: Ontario Historical Society, 1980. http://archive.org/details/cardfilesystemof0000gout.
- Margolin, Victor. The Process of Writing World History of Design, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxyy0THLfuI.
Margolin's short video is particularly lovely for its incredible depth despite its brevity.
Beyond this there is also a very rich history of sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, linguists, and others in the humanities using similar methods.
Beatrice Webb has a fairly good description of how she created her "scientific notes" in the late 1880/1890s in a database-like fashion in the appendix to her memoir My Apprenticeship and expanded on some of the ideas in a more specific text a few years later.
- Webb, Beatrice. My Apprenticeship. First Edition. New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1926.
- Webb, Sidney, and Beatrice Webb. Methods of Social Study. London; New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1932. http://archive.org/details/b31357891.