God still in history's top ten

February 19, 1999

Social history is more popular than political history, with economic history coming a distant third. Ecclesiastical and religious history are pursued by more historians than gender-based approaches to the subject. If God is worried about being written out of history, She can relax.

All this can be learned from History Online, a database which monitors what the United Kingdom's historians are studying, teaching and writing about. If you need an expert on the 18th century colonial history of Asia, a quick search here yields a shortlist of 29.

"It looks pedestrian but conceptually it is quite exciting," said Steven Smith, academic secretary at London University's Institute of Historical Research. "The point is, there is a common classification system." The main classification is by themes ranging from the very broad "social" and "political" to narrower categories such as "education" or "medicine". Users can also specify a period and geographical area as they cross-search 7,000 books, 37 journals, 1,600 articles, 16,100 theses, hundreds of seminars and 3,250 historians in higher and further education. The site also hosts the History subject gateway to resources on the web.

The institute has had approximately Pounds 250,000 from the funding councils' Joint Information Systems Committee since 1995. Dr Smith is confident that the work can continue after the JISC funding ends. The institute has several other sources of income. It is a publisher itself, and commercial publishers pay for the privilege of having their books listed on its database.


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