Introducing “Negotiating Networks: new research on networks in social and economic history”

by Charlie Berry (IHR) and Esther Lewis (University of Nottingham)

On 25th June 2018, the Institute of Historical Research will host a one-day conference showcasing the latest research by social and economic historians who study networks and employ techniques of Social Network Analysis (SNA).

The conference is co-organised by two PhD students, Esther Lewis (University of Nottingham) and Charlie Berry (Institute of Historical Research). Esther and Charlie specialise in late medieval social history and met at the 2017 Harlaxton Medieval Symposium. We both use SNA to investigate aspects of urban social life and got chatting about the challenges and rewards of such an approach.

Facade of Senate House ( by Josh Allen, all rights reserved)

Social Network Analysis has become increasingly popular amongst social and economic historians as part of their ‘digital toolkit’, alongside other methodologies borrowed or adapted from the social sciences such as GIS. Whilst the language of network theory has been familiar to historians since the 1980s, the advent of readily available SNA software such as QGIS has hastened its adoption as a methodology for primary research in recent years.

We have both seen significant benefits to the use of SNA in our research, but recognise that there are some real challenges to its adoption. Network research takes place across a wide range of sub-disciplines, so we have put together a conference programme which deliberately breaks down barriers of periodisation and sub-discipline with the aim of introducing scholars to the full range of potential uses for the methodology. Papers range from the social networks of nineteenth-century prostitutes to early modern networks of overseas trade via the Danish Sound.

Negotiating Networks will also provide a space where scholars at all career stages, from research students to senior academics, can join the conversation about the potential for network analysis. Thanks to the generosity of Past and Present and the Social History Society, we are offering bursaries for postgraduate and early career scholars to attend the event. We hope Negotiating Networks will start a conversation about best practice in the use of network analysis in historical research.

Registration and a full programme are available via the IHR website

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