5.0389 Offline 35 (1/69)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 15 Oct 1991 21:33:41 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0389. Tuesday, 15 Oct 1991.

Date: Thursday, 10 October 1991 1759-EST
Subject: OFFLINE 34

<<O F F L I N E 3 5>>
coordinated by Robert Kraft, guest columnist Richard Jensen
[09 October 1991 Draft, copyright Robert Kraft]
[HUMANIST and IOUDAIOS and RELIGION, 10 October 1991]
[Religious Studies News 6.5 (November 1991)]
[CSSR Bulletin 21.1 (February 1992)]

Over the years, OFFLINE has had little to say about "database
management" approaches to manipulating data on the computer. This
is largely because the editor himself has had little experience
with databases, and indeed, harbors some prejudices based on the
early years of development in which transfer of materials in and
out of databases, and between databases, was often rather
difficult. Furthermore, since databases atomize the material and
store it in various compartments for easy retrieval, they can
restrict the user's ability to be flexible and open ended in
manipulating the material. For my work, standard text files with
sophisticated search and retrieve software seemed preferable in
most instances. But over the years, things have improved enormously
in the development of database technology, and few of the old
reservations remain valid today.

Thus I was elated to encounter on "the networks" (where else?) the
following material on database (and other) programs for historical
research. It has been excerpted, with the author's permission, from
a draft of an article on "Text Management" by Richard Jensen
(CAMPBELD@IUBACS, Professor of History, University of Illinois,
Chicago), which is scheduled to appear in full form in the Journal
of Interdisciplinary History 22.4 (Spring 1992). Catalyst for the
article was provided by the anthology entitled _History and
Computing III: Historians, Computers and Data, Applications in
Research and Teaching_, edited by Evan Mawsley, Nicholas Morgan,
Lesley Richmond and Richard Trainor (Manchester: Manchester
University Press, 1990). Where it seemed useful, I have inserted
explanatory comments between square brackets in the text of
Professor Jensen's treatment.


... The British historians who gathered at the 1988 Glasgow
conference had their metamorphosis a decade ago, transfixed by
the PCs provided by the productivity-minded Thatcher
government. The conference papers display no ideological bias,
save a firm commitment never to squeeze historical reality into
the codes demanded by SPSS [a widely used computer program in the
social sciences]. In a quest for purity through empiricism so
extreme that David Hume would have gasped, the conferees
congratulate themselves on how far they have come from the "bad
old days" (p. 156) of the "number crunching self-styled 'social
science historians' of the late 1960s and 1970s" (p. 180). For
this report I will both review the book, and examine some
software that allows for text management more advanced than word

... [ ahr ]

[A complete version of this article is now available through the
fileserver, s.v. OFFLINE 34. You may obtain a copy by issuing
the command -- GET OFFLINE 34 HUMANIST -- either interactively or
as a batch-job, addressed to ListServ@Brownvm. Thus on a VM/CMS system,
if you are not on a VM/CMS system, send mail to ListServ@Brownvm with
the GET command as the first and only line. For more details see the
"Guide to Humanist". Problems should be reported to David Sitman,
A79@TAUNIVM, after you have consulted the Guide and tried all appropriate