Call for Papers 

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Big data, digital resources and cultural history

Call for papers for the section Epistémologie en débats

RHC n° 5 (2022-2)

The digital resources available to cultural historians has profoundly changed since the beginning of the century. Techniques for inventorying, cataloguing, digitizing or preserving digital data have been transformed. They have been applied to increasingly diverse sources such as archives, prints, images and sounds. As a result, the volume of accessible data has increased considerably, as have the means of processing it, to the point of having a significant impact on the ways of doing cultural history.

Therefore, we are witnessing the emergence of the notion of big data in fields of research where it was hitherto ignored, with the exception of the major quantitative history projects of the 1960s and 1970s. Digital resource platforms, or the catalogs of major libraries, have become essential tools for research, capable of providing not only access to documents but also secondary sources that can be used in their own right. Search engines allow collecting data in a much more systematic way and on a larger scale than was previously possible, and especially including more qualitative information within serial data. What is perhaps most new is that visual history today benefits from huge online collections and search engines capable of compiling results from specific entries. These new possibilities are based in parallel on collection circuits, on decisions to digitize or preserve, on accessibility to archives that now rely on the articulation between paper documents and digital resources, or on cataloguing systems and search engines that should be highlighted.

The forthcoming issue of the "Épistemologie en Debat" section of the RHC intends to examine the implications of these transformations for the historiography or epistemology of 18th- and 21st-century cultural history. It will welcome contributions on the following questions:

1/ The first question concerns the state of the art and the challenges of digital resources, digitized corpora or esources born digital (dematerialized archives, legal deposit of the web, social networks, etc.), their production and conservation, the possibilities for their exploitation through digital technologies. Contributions may focus on particularly emblematic collections, the choices made according to the types of sources, the institutions involved, the implied changes in archival practices (transition from a logic of stock to a logic of flow), the training needs of personnel, the heritage and legal issues, etc. The history of these digital implementations, the geography of these resources which increased accessibility, the target audience, for example in the context of open data, could also be discussed.

2/ A second area of reflection concerns the consequences of these technical transformations on the ways of making cultural history. These transformations, which replace the archive with constantly produced images, lead historians to a new relationship with sources, to a transformation of the terrains of history, undoubtedly to the benefit of global, transnational, and connected histories, and to the emergence of new objects, programs, or fields of research, such as digital humanities. It is possible here to develop the study of specific cases of works that have involved these new technologies in a particularly innovative way.

If the expected articles can and should deal with specific examples, we wish to avoid monographic texts dealing with a single case, in order to favour a problematic and transversal approach of these questions.

Proposals, 200 - 250 words/2000 signs, accompanied by a bio-bibliographical note, must be sent before December 25, 2021


  • 31 March 2022: submission of complete articles (6000 - 9000 words/40 000-50 000 signs)

  • Mach - June 2022: expertise and exchanges with authors

  • 30 June 2022: finalized article

  • 30 September 2022: publication

  • Contacts:,,