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GIS, spatial technologies and digital mapping

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Publication date30/06/2016
Host publicationResearch methods for history
EditorsSimon Gunn, Lucy Faire
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISBN (print)9781474408738, 1474408737
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Even just a decade ago having a chapter dedicated to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in a book on methods in history would have been seen as unusual, but such is the development of digital mapping and spatial technologies over recent years that historians cannot now afford to be without them. This chapter provides an introduction to GIS and its applica- tion and potential for historical study. Given the scope of the chapter it can only be reasonably cursory and aims to show what can be done with GIS in historical research (and teaching), with some pointers for historians on how they might employ GIS and spatial technologies in their own work. It should become clear that GIS is no longer a highly specialised and technical approach to handling spatial and temporal information but an increasingly user-friendly and accessible basis for integrating, analysing and visualising historical and geographical data of a wide variety, both qualitative and quantitative in nature. With this in mind, the chapter sets out: first, what GIS is and how it works; second, why historians might wish to use GIS; thirdly, how GIS is useful for providing insights into the past; and lastly, what the future might be in using GIS for historical research, particularly its problems and challenges. The chapter also provides some directions for further study, including the locations of a growing number of digital online resources that use GIS to disseminate historical material.