Project information
Networks of Dissent: Computational Modelling of Dissident and Inquisitorial Cultures in Medieval Europe (DISSINET)

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Project Identification
Project Period
9/2021 - 8/2026
Investor / Pogramme / Project type
European Union
MU Faculty or unit
Faculty of Arts

This project will deliver a major breakthrough in the understanding of the social and spatial aspects of dissident religious cultures and their repression in medieval Europe. Our approach combines the close reading of inquisitorial trial records that cover more than 20,000 individuals from the 13th to 16th centuries, the modelling of these texts in a richly structured database, and computational techniques well-adapted to uncover hitherto undetected and historically significant patterns within these sources: social network analysis, geographic information science, and quantitative text analysis. Retaining qualitative as well as quantitative detail, we will use these approaches to address major historical and theoretical questions concerning the nature of dissident religious cultures in medieval Europe, their social microstructure and spatiality, their specifics as well as general characteristics, inquisitorial records and procedures, and the interaction and information flow between inquisitors and deponents. The project will also open up a significant new dimension in the conversation between history, the social sciences, and the digital humanities. On the theoretical level, we will target the bottom-up emergence of larger social phenomena such as authority, collective action and shared religious culture from local interactions between particular actors. On the methodological level, we propose a novel way for storing and retrieving the complex and often fuzzy data derived from challenging historical sources, as well as a largely unprecedented use of computational modelling to analyse the detail they contain. We will thereby provide the research community with a coherent and powerful digital toolkit for historical research into complex human phenomena, one that unlocks otherwise inaccessible insights on the societies of the past through computational techniques and that simultaneously puts source-critical questions at the heart of analysis.

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Total number of publications: 35

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