Norm Data for historical political entities

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Norm Data for historical political entities

Hi all,

I have a database in which we track laws from several territories of the Roman-German Empire over several centuries. It seems that while there is surprisingly good coverage for the subject matter of the laws in the German "Gemeinsame Normdatei" (GND), the situation for historical political entities like duchies, counties etc. is much more difficult.

There are no normdata or even just Id's at the GND, and in most cases no entries in wikipedia (or if there are some, they are only sub-chapters in larger articles about a present-day entity). I have not checked in wikidata but I don't have much hope. An exchange with Michael Piotrowski from Lausanne resulted in a document XP Z 44-002 by the French norm authority, AFNOR, but that is quite biased and was at one point explicitly rejected from the ISO process (which Michael told me from the outset). Finally, while ISO 3661 is a set of standards for current political entities like "DE" for Germany, "US-VA" for Virgina etc., I have seen people use private areas that this standard provides like XV-TU  at the recent LinkedPasts IV symposion. (I think it was the Ottoman Recogito project, but I am not 100% sure.)

Does anyone of you have an idea or even a workable approach to identifying these in more than just a project/private way?




History of historical political entities and territories

This topic is very interesting but, as we all know, very complex because it involves reconstructing the history of multiple entities, political, geographical, etc. Also, in some cases the identification of entities and their territories can be controversial. E.g. let's just think about the huge amount of information present in the classic work Geschichte der deutschen Länder ("Territorien-Ploetz"), ed. Sante, Georg Wilhelm (Würzburg, A. G. Ploetz Verl, 1964), and certainly several aspects have been modified by recent scolarship.

Also, the task is not just the one of having a controlled vocabulary of concepts but we need to agree about instances (individuals) belonging to different classes: legal bodies, more or less informal groups, places, families, etc., and their relationships. How is e.g. Herzogtum Schwaben to be identified in the 11th Century, or Grafschaft Baden and Herzogtum Würtemberg in Early Modern times ? As political entities or geographical ? As unique or complex and multitiered ?

In my opinion, to cope with this critical issue we need a whole information system allowing, among other aspects, to store different opinions and points of view and perspectives about political entities and territories, and integrating the whole information available about these entities. We tried to start this process in the project with an Atlas of political territories (click on a date on the right and wait a few seconds, then cklick on a territory and follow the links in the popup) but the lack of staff and interest of historians stopped the undertaking.

This complexitiy helps to explain the lack of an authority file devoted to historical political entities. For example, if you search koe='Fürstentum'  in the German Gemeinsame Normdatei, and give a look to the single authority files in the result of the query, you'll have quite a good example of this complexity and the need of having a developed information system to be used collectively to produce Norm Data for historical political entities. Same issue of course in other national autority files.

The only solution I see for this issue would be to start from existing databases and go for funding for creating a new information system about this topic, or using an existing one. But this will be a huge, although very interesting task. It is quite possible that such a project already exists or is developing somewhere in the DH community. The only one I'm aware of, having the necessary breadth and scope, is the Pelagios Project.

Any other ideas or points of view on this topic ?

(one) more resource(s)

Since a part of approaching the problem usually is finding comparable and analogous projects (and @fberetta has already pointed out Pelagios), I would like to mention one other resource that could maybe serve as an inspiration: the chronontology project provides norm data and contextualisation for time periods (that are in many cases linked to places as well, like "elizabethan" or Plateresque). Surely, many issues are different in our present case, but some ideas of combining different perspectives and (more or less loosely) associating the concept to temporal and spatial extents seem interesting and relevant to me...

Also, with this project, there might be an example of how to organize such an undertaking in terms of funding, consortium etc.

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