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The Nineteenth-Century City

Sex. Crime. God. Money. Power. The Internet.  The nineteenth-century city had all but the Internet, although the Internet is changing the way historians understand the nineteenth-century city.

This course uses the nineteenth-century city as a case study for exploring the ways digital media have changed how historians study the past.  Digital resources make massive amounts of primary source material available on our desktops.  Database, mapping, and text-mining applications allow us to ask new types of research questions.  Blogging, online exhibition, video, and social media platforms have become increasingly popular ways of sharing our research with the broader public.  Digital history is more than just gaining familiarity with digital resources, applications, and platforms; it is about understanding how using these tools have changed the way we study history.

In the first half of the semester, we will read both traditional urban history monographs and delve into cutting-edge digital projects focused on New York City to think about what digital history means.  We will lament the death of Helen Jewett; seek out the arsonist who destroyed PT Barnum’s American Museum; and imagine ourselves at the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.  In the second half of the semester, we will broaden our scope and use different digital technologies we have learned to undertake group projects focused on nineteenth-century cities on both sides of the Atlantic.

This course is writing intensive and requires working collaboratively.  Previous experience with digital applications is not required.

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