Digital Migrations, Databases, and Big Data

AHA Session 135
Friday, January 8, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room A601 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level)
Chair:
Josť C. Moya, Barnard College, Columbia University
Papers:
Global Migrations and Global Development, 1800–2000
Josť C. Moya, Barnard College, Columbia University
Staying Connected: Technology and Migration
Jan Reiff, University of California, Los Angeles
New Methods in the Economic History of Migration
Yannay Spitzer, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Session Abstract

In recent years, the popularization of “big data” has spurred interest in quantitative approaches to the study of global mobility and networks. The abundance of data and a profusion of digital tools have made it easier to proclaim patterns and challenge claims of historical exceptionalism. But historians, who must assemble their databases from dispersed manuscript sources, have rarely reached big-data scales. This roundtable surveys the state of the field and highlights some of the questions that historically-minded scholars are asking of old and newly available databases: How distinctive are the migration patterns associated with the African Diaspora? Do the European migrations of the 19th and 20th centuries have useful analogues elsewhere? To what extent are quantitative and micro-historical approaches at odds today?

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