Viewing posts for the category Database construction
In February, I gave a presentation to the Medieval Studies in the Digital Age seminar at the University of Leeds on the Making of Charlemagne's Europe project. The presentation, entitled 'Bits of charters: putting Carolingian charters into a database', focused on our creation of data structures for the database, especially for place names and on the use of faceted browsing. The text and Powerpoint slides for this presentatuion are now available.
The Charlemagne's Europe database browsing filters (facets) mostly contain English terms, but some of these lists have been left in Latin, while others contain a mixture of English and Latin terminology. The lack of consistency here is generally due to the fact that Latin translation can often be a hazardous affair. Debates rage among medieval historians about the meanings of different words. Language is not static, and meaning changes over time and space. A classic example is the word servus, which in the Roman world meant 'slave', but by the later Middle Ages referred to a 'serf'. Historians thus argue about when (and/or where) 'slavery' ends and 'serfdom' begins.
I’ve just finished inputting the last Freising (FRE) charter from the episcopate of Arbeo (764/5–783). The database now contains about 80 charters from Arbeo’s tenure (a few more exist for the period 764–768, i.e. before Charlemagne became king). The database will ultimately contain about 320 charters from Freising; production ramps up quite a bit under Arbeo’s successor Atto (783–811), doubtless due to the fact that Charlemagne deposed the duke of Bavaria in 788 and formally incorporated the region into the Frankish kingdom. As in other instances of Carolingian conquest (cf. Lombardy), the imposition of new Frankish authorities caused considerable turmoil, as can be seen in a proliferation of dispute charters and confirmations of earlier rights. Warren Brown investigated precisely these processes in eighth- and ninth-century Bavaria, and his study remains an essential guide to Freising’s rich charter evidence .
Many charters include explicit information about agents (individuals, groups and institutions) that is of interest to record. For example, we may be told attributes of agents, such as their ethnic identity (Lombard), their legal status (unfree), their title (bishop of Bergamo) or even the fact that they are dead by the time a particular charter is written. We may also be told about the relationships between two agents: that Fulrad is abbot of Saint-Denis (monasteries and churches are regarded as agents) or that Pippin III is the father of Charlemagne.
One of the main categories of entity in most historical databases is place: where are particular people, institutions and objects located and where did particular events happen? The three main problems in dealing with such historical places are also common to many databases. How should places be identified and mapped and how should hierarchies of places be represented?