¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 This chapter has provided a basic introduction to the joys and pitfalls of abundance in this new era of Big Data. Certainly, the authors of this book are all hopeful about the potential of digital history and big datasets. This potentially has already been fruitfully realized in several successful projects: from the criminal trials of the Old Bailey Online, the Roman travel patterns of ORBIS, or the global commodities of the Trading Consequences project. We, however, do believe that this all needs to be both contextualized in terms of the ethical implications and the field’s historical development, and nuanced with respects to the knowledge claims that can be made.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 As the next chapter notes, we believe that we are in a transitory moment within both the historical field and the digital humanities more broadly: the ‘DH’ moment is upon us. Considered engagement with this field, however, requires an understanding of where we have come from and where we are at this present moment in time. Much of what you will encounter and read over the next five chapters will seem new, just as the methods pioneered by Father Busa in the wake of the Second World War were novel. We are straddling a line between revolution and continuity; resolving this tension is going to be a central part of historians’ tasks over the coming years. In the chapters that follow, we draw on elements of both perspectives, fully understanding that this book itself is as much a historical artefact of this particular moment as are the tools themselves that we study.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The point of this chapter, however, is to stress that for all the novelty, there are still points of continuity. Debates over historical knowing have continued into the digital era, but still remain much as they have been over the last hundreds of years: digital history is no more objective, nor no more subjective, than what has come before. The fundamental questions remain the same around humanistic inquiry: what can we know of the past? What voices can we try to remediate from the past? How can we use historical knowledge in the present day, from informing policy decisions, to inspiring marginalized communities, or to simply tell entertaining stories?
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Digital history has come a long way since Father Busa searched for a technological solution for a concordance of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. As the next chapter shows, a new moment is upon us and a familiarity with macroscopic knowledge is becoming ever-important. As our world is profoundly reshaped by the digital revolution, as historians increasingly engage with digitized sources, and as we begin to reflect on how to study the 1990s, Busa’s questions become even more pressing. Yet another DH moment is upon us, one made all the more critical by the sheer amount of information that we know have available to us.