Factoid Prosopographies at CCH/DDH KCL

In part as a result of the reputation of CCH/DDH at KCL as a group who had developed a workable approach to structured prosopography, a number of historians chose to partner with us on the creation of further structured prosopographies: mostly (but not all) in the factoid model.  As a result, although each project involved its own historian scholars and researchers, all of these prosopographies had in common the DDH/CCH staff (myself, and developers). Nonetheless, although they all shared some elements of a common technical vision, they were not approached as if a single entirely unified conception could be simply applied, without alteration, across all of them.  The different historical periods they represented, the different nature of the sources, and the different academic interests of our historian partners meant that, although they all used the base factoid approach as the basis for representation of the research output, they also differed from each other in various ways.

Furthermore, a few prosopographies undertaken by CCH/DDH, listed later on this page, did not use the factoid approach.

Here are the 6 prosopographies that were carried out with CCH/DDH as partners and that are factoid based, with a link to each of their public websites, and with a few comments about each of them. There is more material, such as lists of participants, about each of them on their associated website.

Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire:

PBE front page

The Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (PBE) is a prosopography of the Byzantine Empire from 641-867 AD. It was begun as a British Academy project in 1989, and continued until it was published (on a CD) in 2001.  It was the first factoid prosopography done at CCH.  It was, in fact, transitional between conventional article-oriented prosopography and the factoid approach since much article-oriented work had already been done on it before the concept of representing it in highly structured data (in a database) came to the fore.  As a result, there are articles for each individual in PBE, although the finding mechanisms, via indices, were generated from factoid data. PBE is, then a first generation factoid prosopography, and the ancestor of the other factoid prosopographies described here.

PBE was originally published in 2001 as a collection of HTML files on a CD published by Ashgate Publishing.  In 2015 Ashgate kindly allowed the material on the CD to be made freely available over the WWW, resulting in the website mentioned above.  The story of PBE and its path to the WWW is told here.

Prosopography of the Byzantine World:

PBW front page

The Prosopography of the Byzantine World (PBW) was in one sense a project that followed on from PBE.  However, in several ways it was quite different from PBE.  First, its prosopographical time period was 1025-1150 AD (called in PBW the “Byzantine third period”) whereas PBE had been its first.  Thus, PBW quite deliberatively did not just follow on historically from PBE. Second, it had different historian staff from PBE, and third it was represented fully as factoid-based data rather than being significantly article-based, as PBE had been. With PASE, it is a second generation factoid prosopography.

A unique feature of PBW was its idea of “narrative units”, an approach to dealing with historical events developed by Dr. Michael Jeffreys – the principal researcher in the PBW editorial team.  Narrative units allowed the stories of prominent people to be broken down into small hierarchical units as a series of events.  This data structure was then linked into PBW’s factoid structure.

PBW also contained a parallel project centered on Byzantine lead seals, which aimed to represent a sigillographic analysis of the seals in structured data terms, and linked its materials with PBW’s factoid prosopographical structures.

Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England:

paseThe Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (PASE) involved building a factoid-based prosopography for Anglo-Saxon England (). It was built in three steps. The first (PBE I) covered the period 597 to 1042, and was constructed 2000-2005 with funding provided by the AHRB.  The second (PBE I) extended the period unto the 12th century and included data drawn from Domesday book (also AHRC funded), and the third included considerable more data derived from Domesday book (as a part of the project Profile of the Doomed Elite) and was published in 2015. PASE’s research methodology is documented online here.

Like PBW, PASE’s design was quite consciously derived from PBE’s factoid model, and extended PBE’s factoid approach in various ways, including defining an approach to deal with people in historical events. PASE was the first DDH project to adopt a fully facetted approach to the provision of public access to its database, and a facetted search engine was created for PASE that operated directly on the PASE relational database itself.

As with PBW, it is a second generation factoid prosopography.

People of Medieval Scotland:

POMS web app

The People of Medieval Scotland (POMS) created a factoid-based prosopography drawn primarily from legal charter sources from Scotland 1093-1314.  It was developed in two phases. The first (called then the Paradox of Medieval Scotland: funded by the AHRC) ran from 2005 to 2009 and covered the period 1093-1286.  This was extended as a second phase to 1314 to include the time when England’s Edward I attempted to conquer Scotland and rule it as well. This second phase was a part of the Breaking of Britain project (AHRC funded) which also produced the PONE database described below, and ran from 2009 to 2011.

A central development in POMS was a much richer representation of charter structure than had appeared in earlier factoid prosopographies, including a rich representation of transactions as a kind of event factoid.  PASE dealt with charters too, and included a transaction factoid, but it was less sophisticated than the model developed for POMS turned out to be.  See Bradley et al 2017 for an article that describes the impact of the centrality of charters on the factoid model, and an interpretation of how the structured data model produced a set of data that was different from charter-text based approaches. POMS used the facetted approach to provide public access to its dataset, and, in part because of the many different kinds of information that could act as facets challenged many of the simpler facetted models already in use at DDH and elsewhere.

The factoid structure provides data that can be explored using the network-based models of Social Network Analysis (SNA).  A project funded by the Leverhulme foundation looked to see what new insights about Medieval Scotland could be uncovered when POMS’s database was explored in this way, using the tools and methodologies of SNA. Some results of this approach have begun to appear, and have been made public here. In addition, geographic resolution work has been done on POMS to allow data in it to be projected on to maps of Scotland.

The understanding of factoids in POMS grew out of and developed from the factoid models for PBW and PASE.  POMS is, therefore, a third generation factoid prosopography.

People of Northern England:

PONE website

As a part of the Breaking of Britain project the People of Northern England initiative (PONE) created a factoid database for people of the three northern counties, Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland, in England for the period 1216-1286 that paralleled that of POMS.   Its primary historical sources were English pipe and plea rolls.  PONE claims that “nothing comparable has been constructed before for any English county”. It was created between 2009 and 2011.

Since both POMS and PONE covered adjacent geographical areas, and overlapping time periods, there are individuals that appear in both databases.  Thus, the work done here involved some effort to link people between the two databases in a “linked data” manner.

Like POMS, PONE is a third generation factoid prosopography.

Making of Charlemagne’s Europe:

Charlemagne websiteThe Making of Charlemagne’s Europe (MkCheur) applied a highly structured data model, based on the factoid approach, for the representation of information of legal charters that survive from the reign of Charlemagne.  The project ran from 2012 to 2014, and drew for its data structure not only on the factoid model, but also on aspects of PoMS’s handling of charter sources, although MkCheur also extended and altered PoMS’s charter-based structures to meet the particular interests of its historian partners.

Although MkCheur enriched and extended the model for structure in charters, it did not significantly alter the understanding of the factoid model.  Thus, although it built in some ways on the third generation PoMS factoid model, it remains, from a factoid perspective, a third generation factoid model as well.

Prosopographies developed in partnership with CCH/DDH KCL, but not Factoid:

Although there were many structured prosopographies created in partnership with CCH/DDH (described above), two prosopographical projects did not follow the prosopographical model. They are:

Clergy of the Church of England Database:

cced

The Clergy of the Church of England Database project (CCEd) began in 2000 just as the first factoid database (PBE) was finishing up, and CCEd and continues to add new data up to the present time.  Although it was strongly primary source based and developed a representation of a structure for the administrative documents it processes, its structure does not include the conception of the factoid, perhaps because it was begun before the factoid model was well established.  However, looking back on the structure from the perspective of the present, a factoid-based data model could certainly have been applied in CCEd too.

Digitising the prosopography of the Roman Republic:

dprrThe Digitising the prosopography of the Roman Republic project (DPRR) is, at the time of writing, an ongoing project that started in 2013 and which is bringing together a number of already existing prosopographical works (primarily currently in print) into a database structure in a way that will allow data to be searched and presented across these separately created prosopographical sources.  Because DPRR was not drawing its data from primary sources, and intended to take a person-level interpretative approach rather than a source-level interpretative approach of the factoid model, it did not seem to be necessary to use the factoid model.

References

Bradley, John, Alice Rio, Matthew Hammond and Dauvit Broun (expected 2017). “Exploring a model for the semantics of medieval legal charters”. Accepted by International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing. Projected for Vol. 11 No. 2.