With a slight ‘retardation’, our recap of the historical sessions of the first EUSN conference. There were inspiring papers, fancy posters, delicious tapas, amazing vocals, and a keynote that took the FIFA world ranking to a whole new level (and the games themselves of course; but why on earth would you shut down your bar at midnight with Belgium-USA at 0-0 and extra time coming up??).
We were spoilt here, with two full sessions on historical network analysis. On Wednesday, the first started off with the late middle ages, and how the social organisation of the Hansa, with its extensive trade network, changed in towns like Lübeck and Hamburg after the Black Death (‘Plague and Position: The Black Death and the Emergence of the Medieval Hansa’ by Bernd Wurpts and Katherine Stovel). Based on property transfers documented in wills, and kinship networks, they discovered that ‘new men’, i.e. new citizens, came in and acted as brokers across towns, connecting the local elites, and that the regulation of private property transfer possibly spilled over from the legal/religious to the political/economic sphere and was therefore the the cause for the regulation of the Hansa trade.
Next up was Cornell Jackson (‘Exploring the Relationships among the People of Medieval Scotland’), Silke’s very own SNA Jedi master. He’s not a historian himself, but with his SNA background he contributes to the People of Medieval Scotland project. He created a witness affiliation network based on charters, and tested Valente’s diffusion models (Network Models of the Diffusion of Innovations, Hampton Press, 1995) to the use of the regnal Sicut Clause and the key role the royal court played in this process.
Spain was the center of attention in the next two papers: the first focused on lease contracts of tax agents from Gerona between 1415-1428 (‘SNA applied to financial agents at the service of municipal and state taxation systems in late medieval Catalonia’, Albert Reixach and Esther Redondo); the second on the growth of the Castilian economy and the role of money-changers and bankers, distinguishing between weak economic and financial ties and strong social relations based on kinship and marriage (‘Financial networks and money-changers in early modern Castile’, David Carvaial). The last talk of the day took us to the enigmatic Tokugawa period in Japan, during which the country was ‘closed’ to outsiders, with its rigid and formalized social system, and the place of naturalists within this structure (‘The life cycle of naturalist networks in early modern Japan’, Xin Xing and Xing Liu).
Friday we witnessed the second round. At EHESS in Paris they’re setting up a demographic database of Buenos Aires to reconstruct ego networks and study social stratification in a period marked by an influx of new citizens from Europe and Africa (‘Ego-centred networks and community detection dynamics in Buenos Aires, 1620-1840: building a large database’, Pascal Cristofoli, Zacarias Moutoukias and Christophe Prieur). They’ve done some test cases with wedding certificates and the correspondence of a spunky guy called Domingo Belgrano, which look promising!
Despite all the WOI craze going on at the moment, we should’t forget that there are other years ending in 14 with events that changed the course of history. Just like 2014 will be remembered as the year we started up this epic blog and fundamentally changed the way historians do research. We become the Pierre and Marie, the Watson and Crick of ancient history. Nobel Prizes, Order of the Garter, tenure, Daniel Craig as bodyguard, we’ll have it all! Anywho… In 1814-1815, all eyes were on Austria where the Congress of Vienna was held. Florian made a nice plea for the usefulness of SNA as a methodology, without losing sight of the big picture, by using networks to focus on the interaction between the macro (apparently there was a lot of partying going on at the time, they sure knew how to organize a congress!) and the micro (= actors) level (‘The Congress of Vienna 1814/15 and the historical network research: connecting empirical and theoretical perspectives’, Florian Kerschbaumer).
Last but not least we turned to Ohmenhausen in the kingdom of Wuerttemburg (‘Marriage networks and the development of social stratification in the 19th century’, Martin Stark and Matthias Bixler), for which Martin is analyzing marriage networks through exponential random graph models to look at at the role of kinship in rural class formation (due to economic pressure, people tended to marry to remote relatives or other large landowner families to prevent property fragmentation). He raised some important questions, such as how to sample (what time intervals?) and how to scale (he’s thinking of going global, live the dream buddy!).
Finally, big up to the session organizers! Martin: those cherry beers in Ghent are on me; and Florian: if you pay the conference fee three times again, I’ll see what I can do in the obese male stripper/fireworks department. All while feasting on Complete Burgers, of course.