Social Science Computer Review

Volume 27, No.3

Fall 2009

Table of Contents


Special Issue: History and GIS

Guest edited by Timothy J. Bailey and James B. M. Schick



Historical GIS: Enabling the Collision of History and Geography

            Timothy J. Bailey and James B. M. Schick  


From Wilderness to Megalopolis: A Comparative Analysis of County Level Sex Ratios in the United States from 1790 to 1910 using an Historical GIS / Mark A. Boeckel and Samuel M. Otterstrom  

Using an historical GIS and statistical measures this research examines the sex ratios of the United States between 1790 and 1910 to determine whether men truly outnumbered women on the American Frontier. We used United States Census data combined with historical digital county maps to calculate male to female sex ratios by county and settlement density class. We analyzed these ratios using descriptive statistics, the Games-Howell ANOVA Test, and comparisons of historical GIS maps. We found that gender ratios on the American Frontier were extremely high throughout the study period and were significantly different from those in more densely populated areas. In addition, sex ratios declined as population density increased in each decade of this study. However, frontier areas still had fairly high gender ratios in 1910, thus showing ongoing significant demographic differences between those sparsely settled counties and more urbanized regions.


Using GIS and Individual-level Data for Whole Communities: A Path toward the Reconciliation of Political and Social History /   Donald A. DeBats  

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can assist the re-integration of the estranged fields of American political and social history when focused on individual-level political and social information for whole communities of moderate size. This paper illustrates these integrative possibilities through an exploration of political and social life in four nineteenth-century North American communities. Place of residence has been determined for about 80% of past inhabitants in each case study and spatial data serves as the  link for all information. GIS provides a new variable—spatial relationships—of interest to both political and social historians. GIS employed in this type of “total history” adds value for its analytic capacities as well as its more familiar strengths in visualization. GIS in this way is returned to the narrative and placed at the center of the interests of both political and social history.


Backcountry Settlement Development and Indian Trails:  A GIS Landgrant Analysis / G. Rebecca Dobbs  

During the eighteenth century the Southern backcountry underwent both rapid settlement by Europeans and a period of intense urbanization, in contrast to other parts of the South where town-building continued to lag.  This article examines one Southern backcountry region, the North Carolina Piedmont, and describes the use of GIS to analyze spatial and temporal pattern in the eighteenth-century granting of land in this region in relation to the emergence of towns.  The results support the idea that initial conditions, including the presence of indigenous landscape features such as the Indian Trading Path, must be considered in order to understand town formation in the backcountry.

Historical GIS and Visualization: Insights from Three Hotel Guest Registers in Central Pennsylvania, 1888-1897 /     David A. Fyfe, Deryck W. Holdsworth and Chris Weaver   
Historic hotel guest registers are used to extract data to map and analyze visitation patterns for commercial hotels in three small places in central Pennsylvania during the late-nineteenth century. In an era before the automobile, guestsheds reflect both the slow travel of the horse and wagon era and linkages via railroad networks to more distant places. Hotel registers in places off a railroad line generate different guestsheds than those on rail lines; those in county seats often show the influence of seasonal court sessions and county fairs. Although the application of a GIS is useful for teasing out spatial variations in the data, temporal patterns are not so easily distinguished. This research reports on the utilization of Hotelviz, an integrated software for visual data analysis, to help confront the complex spatiotemporal trends that are to be found in the data.

Exploring Vegetation Patterns along an Undefined Boundary: Eastern Harrison County, Texas, Late Spring, 1838 / Gang Gong and James W. Tiller

Combining historical land survey field notes and modern geographical information systems technique, this essay explores the vegetation pattern in eastern Harrison County in Texas along the Texas-Louisiana border in 1838, the year which marked the beginning of major influx of Anglos into this region. The analysis confirms that the vegetation cover prior to the influx was significantly different from what is there today. This article also demonstrates how GIS can be utilized to assist in historical research.


Standard of Living Effects Due to Infrastructure Improvements in the Nineteenth Century / Peter D. Groote, J. Paul Elhorst and P.G. Tassenaar 

We use GIS to analyze the relationship between the biological standard of living and the development of the transport network in ninety municipalities located in the rural provinces of Groningen and Drenthe, the Netherlands, in the historical context of the nineteenth century. By running advanced spatiotemporal models we find empirical evidence in favor of the so-called “antebellum puzzle.” This puzzle states that while the nineteenth century infrastructure improvements had a positive effect on the standard of living in the long term, the short term effect is negative.


Layered Landscape: The Swamps of Colonial Northbridge / Felicity Morel-EdnieBrown

This study focuses on a very small area of land that forms part of the northern CBD of Perth in Western Australia. In investigating this micro scale of human occupation, GIS was a research tool to investigate traditional historical sources not commonly thought of by historians as spatial. Changes, hidden until rediscovered through the agency of GIS, showed that the northern part of the townscape was intimately defined and cast in response to its swampland topography.


Reconstructing Former Features of the Cultural Landscape near Early Celtic Princely Seats in Southern Germany: A GIS-based Application of Large-scale

Historical Maps and Archival Sources as a Contribution to Archaeological Research/ Christof Schuppert and Andreas Dix

This study deals with the historical geographical investigation of settlement structures of the early Iron Age in Central Europe  using historical sources in cartographic and written form. To process and analyze the data from different sources and present the results a geographic information system (GIS) is used. The results contribute to the exploration of both the historical topography of the so-called Early Celtic Princely Seats and the ecological and economic factors which contributed to their genesis.


Metropolitan Telecommunication: Uneven Telegraphic Connectivity in Nineteenth-Century London / Roland Wenzlhuemer  

While the United Kingdom has long lost its position at the heart of a practically global empire, the British capital London still continues to stand at the very center of a global telecommunication and information network. Yet global connectivity is not evenly distributed throughout the metropolis. As recent studies show, information-dependent businesses tend to concentrate in particular quarters in and around the City of London and the West End despite the spatial flexibility that modern telecommunication technology allows for. This study seeks to demonstrate how the modern “digital divide” that rips through London continuously evolved from similarly uneven connectivity patterns in the telegraphic network of late nineteenth-century London. With the help of historical GIS these patterns will be visualized. This examination will show how important a role continuity played in the evolution of modern informational patterns and how this sheds new light on issues of technological dynamism and agency.



Book Review


Past Time, Past Place: GIS for History,

by Anne K. Knowles (ed.) / Reviewed by Hyun Joong Kim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .