The UK’s State Papers include over 130,000 unique letters dating from the period between the accession of Henry VIII and the death of Elizabeth I. These papers are dispersed across a number of collections, with a large proportion in the ownership of The National Archives, and preserved in an archival store located in salt mines in Cheshire.
In 2008 the State Papers became available as a digital resource, State Papers Online (SPO), which brought together the digital surrogates of the manuscripts with the Calendars of the State Papers, a chronologically organised catalogue of this vast collection. The digital resource created metadata fields for each document which rendered the entire archive navigable in new ways. These include the names of sender and recipient, the place and data of writing, and a description of the letter contents amongst others. Gale kindly shared with us the underlying XML data from this resource, which we then laboriously cleaned over a period of 18 months, disambiguating and deduplicating the names of people and places, and adding linked data and geo-coordinates. The visualisation contains the metadata fields for all these letters with the exception of the three volumes of the Irish Manuscript Commission for which Gale has obtained a licence to use only within SPO, and the Yelverton catalogue which is British Library copyright.
If you want to find out more about the team’s work on the application of network analysis to the State Papers, see their articles Metadata, Surveillance, and the Tudor State, and A Tale of Two Snowdens: Dataveillance in History. A book, Tudor Networks of Power, is also forthcoming from Oxford University Press.
Creative direction & data visualization
Historical analysis & data cleaning
Network analysis & data wrangling
This is part of a larger project entitled Tudor Networks of Power, led by Ruth and Sebastian, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Stanford Humanities Center, and Queen Mary University of London. The project is also indebted to Gale Cengage for supplying the data, and Cambridge University’s subscription to that database, through which we were able to gain access within the permitted educational use terms. Finally, we would not have been able to do this work without research associates Lotte Fikkers and Jose Cree, who cleaned and geo-coded the place names, and undergraduate research assistants Tani Thomsen and Emily Shah, who undertook additional data checking.
We have worked hard preparing this data, but errors slip through when you’re working with this many letters. If you spot any, please email Ruth Ahnert. For questions or inquiries about the visualization please contact Kim Albrecht