How Has the Study of History Developed for the Digital Age?


Map of British Isles by Gerardus Mercator 1596
Map of British Isles by Gerardus Mercator 1596

The study of history has inevitably changed over the last few decades, and no doubt will continue to change because of the introduction of new technologies such as computers and the internet. It is now much easier to share things online than it used to be, and this means that more people can access a wider range of information.

Many archives and journals now publish online, meaning that more people have access to the sources and information that they provide. For example, online databases like British History Online (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/) brings together a selection of sources from different periods, and makes them available for anyone to look at without having to travel down to archives in London or Edinburgh or Dublin. For my own analysis of British History Online see https://tudorblogger.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/review-of-sources-on-british-history-online/. The National Archives operate similarly and I’m sure many others do as well. Even the BBC have audio clips on a wide range of subjects from people who were there, and even old newsreels.

Books are also more widely accessible through the likes of the Kindle and iPad via ebooks. Personally, I prefer going to a library and reading the physical copy of a book, but the introduction of ebooks means that more people are getting the opportunity to read and develop their own opinions and interests. That can only be a good thing, and I think that we have technology to thank for expanding minds.

With computers it is now much easier to write your ideas down, formulate and reformulate them, without getting through reams of paper. Perhaps it is this easier approach which has seen the increase of publication of books, not just in history. Writers can self-publish and the rise of historical fiction is spreading like wildfire across the internet, although naturally some are sceptical of portraying fact as fiction and vice versa. Some say that history is a dying subject because of the introduction of technology but this is inaccurate. It is a rebirth of history as new technologies allow historians to function more effectively and efficiently, and as history is always being created there will always be more to write about.

Online blogs (such as this one, https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/, and https://thehistorywoman.com/ to name a few differing ones) allow people to share opinions and read the opinions of others. There is a small thrill in making your opinions known and being able to defend them when others attack them. There is also a thrill in occasionally being wrong and learning new things through interaction with others. However, such easy access to other people’s opinions and research can have a detrimental effect in the form of plagiarism. Although it might be easier to steal other people’s work nowadays, it is also easier for you to be caught because whatever you have access to, your teachers and lecturers will as well.

 

Bibliography

Ian Anderson, History and Computing, http://www.history.ac.uk/makinghistory/resources/articles/history_and_computing.html

Rhodri Marsden, The Big Steal: Rise of the Plagiarist in the Digital Age, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/21/rise-plagiarism-internet-shia-labeouf

Toni Weller, History in the Digital Age, Routledge, 2013

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