Just a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post on the Valley of the Shadow. You may be interested in an article based on the Valley project written by Ed Ayers and William G. Thomas, who used to run the Center for Digital History at UVA. The article was published in the American Historical Review, and is titled, “The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities.” I recommend checking this out as it is an innovative way of using the internet to construct historical interpretations. As you will see, the reader is able to follow all of the references back to the original sources, which are contained on the Valley database. As for what the authors hope to achieve, I will let them speak for themselves:
“This article is an applied experiment in digital scholarship. Over the last decade networked information resources have come to play a large role in the work of historians; most of us have become accustomed to augmenting our library research and professional discussion through digital means. Despite these changes, scholars have only begun to craft scholarship designed specifically for the electronic environment. In this article, we attempt to translate the fundamental components of professional scholarship-evidence, engagement with prior scholarship, and a scholarly argument-into forms that take advantage of the possibilities of electronic media.
We apply these methods to a long-standing issue in American history: how slavery divided American society and culture in the years before the Civil War. Our close study of two communities near the Mason-Dixon Line, a comparison designed to isolate the role of slavery in shaping societies of similar location and histories, shows significant differences in demography, agricultural strategies, and industrial development but broad commonalities in economic outlook, political structures, and cultural orientation.” Happy Reading!