Deceptive Contiguity. The Polygon in Spatial History
Abstract: The polygon is the most common vector data model used to represent political entities in spatial history and historical GIS. When it comes to visualizing the entangled, complex political geography of pre- modern societies, however, discrete, contiguous features can be a problematic cartographic choice. One example explored in this talk will be the aggressive enserfment of foreign peasants by a German prince in the seventeenth-century. The comparison of an older map of these events with digital maps based on new data shows how polygons can suggest the continuous distribution of phenomena that were really discontinuous. Indeed, in early modern political geography, the polygon often operates as the cartographic equivalent of problematic concepts such as absolutism and sovereignty. This talk will discuss the potential and limitations of different kinds of spatial data models and data available to early modern historians today.
Bio: Luca Scholz is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and lecturer at Stanford University. He works on the history of early modern Europe, combining social, legal and intellectual history with geospatial and digital methods. Luca holds a PhD in History from the European University Institute, a joint MA in History from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris and the University of Heidelberg, as well as BA in Economics from the latter university. His first book, “The Enclosure of Movement. Borders and Mobility in the Holy Roman Empire”, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press. He has also published English, German, French, and Italian articles and chapters on passports, serfdom, the politics of protection, and spatial history. Beginning in Fall 2019 he will join the faculty of the University of Manchester (UK) as Lecturer in Digital Humanities.