For thousands of years humans have been collecting and recording events that they observe, and the stories handed down to them. These historical records vary widely but generally have a common thread in that they refer to an event (a time and place) and to the participants in that event. Records on their own do not provide insight unless the patterns within them can be detected and collated. The tools needed to find these patterns also have a common thread.
These common threads can help us in creating a software package of wide historical utility:
- The data that needs to be stored for history research has a largely common structure usually falling into one of two broad types:
- a description of something, or
- how that thing relates to other things (for example via a person, date, time or location)
- A researcher may want to view and analyse the same data from a variety of different perspectives
- Rules can help to validate the veracity of an assertion of a relationship
- High quality research requires an analysis of the evidential base for any assertions that are made, and the ability to be able to report on that analysis.
Traditionally, historians have divided their research into targeted areas such as genealogy, anthropology, ecology, archaeology, military history and so on. The fundamental data and analysis requirements are the same, and can be dealt with in software in a common way even if the things being measured and the rules for validation may differ.
By embracing these ideas the History Research Environment project aims to create a research platform of wide historical and cultural utility.