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  • FRANÇOIS Pierre (11)
  • ZALC Claire (8)
  • BARTOLOMEI Arnaud (6)
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This paper elaborates on our joint experience of teaching quantitative methods to (mostly) historians since the early 2000s and writing an introductory book on this topic, first in French, then in English, in a revised and expanded version. All along, we have pursued three aims, related to two different types of audience. First, we want to make quantitative methods accessible for all historians—and humanists generally—, especially those who do not think that such methods are “for them,” because they do not enjoy mathematics, or because they study topics that are not traditionally considered as suited to quantification. Second, our intent is to contribute to less routine uses of quantification in the social sciences, by promoting diversity in methods and imagination in categorization schemes—going beyond “the usual suspects” in terms of sources, variables, and calculations. Third, we promote respect for the basic tenets of the historical profession, i.e. principles of source criticism, as the cornerstone of the constitution of data from historical sources. The first part of the paper begins by explaining where we speak from. As practices of quantification differ between countries and sub-disciplines, we first tell a few words about our own experience with quantitative history, in the context of its recent evolutions, since it lost any pretense at dominance in the historical discipline. These trajectories led us to promote constructivist, small-scale, experimental quantitative history. In terms of teaching, this translates into a learning-by-doing focused on the construction and categorization of data from sources. The second and third parts of the paper briefly flesh out the main principles that we promote in our teaching, with examples in and out of economic history and the history of capitalism. The second part addresses the transformation of sources into quantifiable data; the third part discusses data categorization and analysis.

in La Vie des Idées Publication date 2020-01-24
ZIMMER Alexandre
CÉNAC Peggy
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Les politiques publiques françaises concentrent les moyens de recherche sur quelques “sites”, aux dépens de régions entières, creusant les inégalités entre universités dites “d’élite” ou “de masse”. Mais de nombreux travaux empiriques démontrent l’inefficacité d’une telle concentration des moyens.

Data exists; it is as simple as notes taken from historical sources. We tend to call it “data” when we take our notes in a spreadsheet, but it is really any type of notes taken systematically from historical sources. Our spreadsheets are verbose and most “digital humanists” would want to “clean” them, but we cherish their dirtiness. It is a sign that the transformation from source to data (notes) happened through our own thought processes (not those of underlings paid to sweep the dirt under the rug) and retained the ambiguities of the sources. To make data better, and to have more colleagues crave it and fewer abhor it, we want to keep it as close as possible to the source, even though it will be dirtier, and more costly to produce in large quantities. But that’s fine, because we do not believe data is good only if it is really big. It is good if it is complicated, and thus rich in information, but still systematically acquired and noted in a structured way, so that we can simplify it in many different ways if we want to experiment with it. It is good for thinking, even, or especially, when it produces new questions rather than final answers. This was the manifesto in our title. To flesh out what we mean, this paper will illustrate three main points through cases from our research on apprenticeship in France.

in Apprenticeship in Early Modern Europe Edited by PRAK Maarten, WALLIS Patrick Publication date 2019-10
CROWSTON Clare
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Apprenticeship was available in France within the context of guilds, but was also offered by individuals and institutions outside that context. Whether guilds were involved or not, French apprenticeships were always arranged under notarial contracts. This created a double structure of oversight: corporate and legal. All apprenticeship arrangements in France, however, took their cues from the guild framework. This explains why, after the abolition of the guilds during the French Revolution, the apprenticeship model in France continued more or less as it had done in the eighteenth century, despite the absence of the former institutional effect or certification. Girls, however, gained new training opportunities in the nineteenth century. For boys, the number of incomplete apprenticeships, already high before 1800, further increased after that date. Throughout the period, social skills were as important in the apprentice’s education as economic skills.

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Erika Vause, an Assistant Professor of History and St. John’s University, is passionate about early nineteenth French history and especially the “Revolutions” of the title, those of 1789 and 1848. As she shows, credit — public as well as private — was then hotly and extensively discussed. In order to better understand the economic, political, and cultural stakes of the discussions, Vause focuses on two legal devices that were specific to merchants: debt imprisonment and bankruptcy. After three brief abolitions, imprisoning debtors was finally abrogated in 1867. Bankruptcy law entailed criminal and commercial procedures, depending on suspicions of fraud, and was regularly reformed.

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En plus d’une étude sous tous les angles et à toutes les échelles de la pratique de la convention collective de 1890 à 1914, en France et en Allemagne, le livre offre des synthèses du plus récent état de la recherche sur l’organisation du travail dispersé dans les fabriques collectives urbaines (aussi appelées aujourd’hui « districts industriels »), dans le bâtiment, dans ce qui reste de la proto-industrie rurale ; sur ce que fait le développement des syndicats ouvriers et patronaux à des pratiques de négociation collective qui leur préexistaient ; sur l’élaboration des statistiques des grèves ; sur le fonctionnement concret des tribunaux chargés du travail ; sur les débats juridiques, économiques et sociaux dans les universités et les ministères – liste non exhaustive.

Publication date 2019-03
ZALC Claire
GOLDHAMMER Arthur
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This timely and lucid guide is intended for students and scholars working on all historical periods and topics in the humanities and social sciences--especially for those who do not think of themselves as experts in quantification, "big data," or "digital humanities." The authors reveal quantification to be a powerful and versatile tool, applicable to a myriad of materials from the past. Their book, accessible to complete beginners, offers detailed advice and practical tips on how to build a dataset from historical sources and how to categorize it according to specific research questions. Drawing on examples from works in social, political, economic, and cultural history, the book guides readers through a wide range of methods, including sampling, cross-tabulations, statistical tests, regression, factor analysis, network analysis, sequence analysis, event history analysis, geographical information systems, text analysis, and visualization. The requirements, advantages, and pitfalls of these techniques are presented in layperson’s terms, avoiding mathematical terminology. Conceived primarily for historians, the book will prove invaluable to other humanists, as well as to social scientists looking for a nontechnical introduction to quantitative methods. Covering the most recent techniques, in addition to others not often enough discussed, the book will also have much to offer to the most seasoned practitioners of quantification.

in La storia in digitale. Teorie e metodologie Edited by PACI Deborah Publication date 2019
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L'analyse de textes va-t-elle enfin entrer dans la boîte à outils de l'historien.ne ? La quantité grandissante de sources numérisées la rend plus rapide (le temps de numérisation était souvent un obstacle infranchissable auparavant). Elle rend toutefois encore plus nécessaire la réflexion critique sur ce qui est en ligne et ce qui n'y est pas (la plupart des textes documentant les dominé.e.s, notamment). Le choix de ce que l'on regarde de loin, plus encore que les décisions en matière de méthodes, oriente en effet les résultats.

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Les renouvellements de l’historiographie ont révisé une vision du travail au XIXe siècle qui était dominée par les modèles du paternalisme, de la discipline usinière et de la liberté de contrat sans limite. Ils décrivent des rapports de travail plus précaires mais aussi plus négociés, notamment dans le cadre des chaînes de sous-traitance complexes de la fabrique collective et de la proto-industrie. Les conseils de prud’hommes étaient en particulier un lieu de délibération sur des règles qui pouvaient dans une certaine mesure redresser le rapport de forces en faveur des ouvrier·es. Ces conseils produisaient un « droit des ouvriers », bien distinct de celui des marchands, même si les rapports entre ouvrier·es et patron·nes ressemblaient à des rapports marchands. Les conseils de prud’hommes étaient cependant loin d’être accessible à tou·tes les travailleur·ses manuel·les ; beaucoup ne pouvaient pas participer à l’élaboration de ce droit ni bénéficier de son application.

in Enterprise & Society Publication date 2019
BARTOLOMEI Arnaud
REBOLLEDO-DHUIN Viera
SOUGY Nadège
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This article discusses the relational and rhetorical foundations of more than 300 first letters sent in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by merchant or banking houses based in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Americas to two prominent French firms: Roux Brothers and Greffulhe Montz & Cie. We used a quantitative analysis of qualitative aspects of first letters to go beyond the standard opposition between premodern personal exchanges and modern impersonal transactions. The expansion of commercial networks during the period under analysis is often believed to have relied on families and ethnic networks and on explicit recommendations worded in the formulas prescribed in merchant manuals. However, most first letters did not use such resources. In many cases, commercial operations began thanks to a mutual acquaintance but without a formal recommendation. This was in fact the norm in the eighteenth century—and an underestimated foundation of the expansion of European commercial networks. In the early nineteenth century, this norm became less prevalent: it was replaced by diverse relational and rhetorical strategies, from recommendations to prospective letters dispensing with any mention of relationships. Whether before or after 1800, the relational and rhetorical resources displayed in letters did not systematically influence the sender’s chances of becoming a correspondent; instead, they depended on the receiving firm’s commercial strategy.

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