Welcome to the Pre-Conference Conversations for the New England American Studies Conference. We're writing about the things we'll talk about the conference--join the conversation!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Views from space in the Spatial Turn

In true PechaKucha style, you have only 20 seconds to read this post.  Just kidding, I'm not actually timing you.

My presentation is on the spatial relationships of Baltimore's early c19 merchants.  Here's an image (from space!) that shows the point of origin for ships that entered Baltimore's ports from March - May 1792.

Points of Origin for Baltimore Entrances, 1792
The markers are weighted: larger markers mean more ships arrived from that port.  Baltimore's marker has a black dot in it.

This representation, and others, will help me discuss the trade networks Baltimore's merchants relied on to conduct business.    What sorts of questions do you think I can ask and (hopefully) answer with data that looks like this?  How is this more or less helpful than a simple list of ports?  What does it mean to the historian, or humanist more generally, that he or she can generate a representation like this in only a few hours?

I look forward to responding to your comments and feedback here and at the upcoming conference.  Can't wait to be back in Providence!

Abby Schreiber


  1. How different might the weighting look if you included ALL points of call, rather than just point of origin?

  2. It would look much different! Unfortunately, I don't have that data for most of the ships. Upon entrance in the port, they only recorded the origin of the ship (and the owners).

  3. I was curious because of the small size of the Canary Islands and Cape Verde, and the complete lack of a marker at Madeira.

    1. Yes, the records from 1792 only cover 2 months of the year, so it's a pretty incomplete record of the annual commerce for the port.