Reading the Grand Tour at a Distance: Archives and Datasets in Digital History


The American Historical Review has just published my essay, "Reading the Grand Tour at a Distance: Archives and Datasets in Digital History." It is part of the AHR Forum, "Mapping the Republic of Letters." Here is the abstract:

This essay uses Giovanna Ceserani, Giorgio Caviglia, Nicole Coleman, Thea De Armond, Sarah Murray, and Molly Taylor-Poleskey’s essay “British Travelers in Eighteenth-Century Italy: The Grand Tour and the Profession of Architecture” as a point of departure from which to examine the limits and potentials of digital history, especially as it relates to the construction of archives and digital datasets. Through a critical reading of the sources used to create the Grand Tour Project—part of the Mapping the Republic of Letters project at Stanford University—it shows the ways in which datasets can both hide and embody hierarchies of power. Comparing the Grand Tour Project to other digital projects currently in production, such as Itinera and Legacies of British Slave-Ownership, this piece offers suggestions for alternative readings of the Grand Tour narrative. It ends by summarizing a series of challenges faced by historians as they contemplate best practices for creating and maintaining digital datasets in the twenty-first century.

The other essays in the Forum are