'Distant Reading for Historians' (Huizinga Summer School Digital Humanities 2020)

Activity: Teaching/Examination/SupervisionTeaching activityAcademic


The module 'Distant Reading for Historians' is created and taught by Ralf Futselaar and Milan van Lange

This section of the Huizinga Summer School 2020 is devoted to distant reading. Distant reading (or "text mining") is the process of analyzing (very) large bodies of text with the help of computers. Although it would seem that "distant reading" is the antonym of the better known "close reading", the two actually have a very similar approach to text. Using free and open source software, and freely available datasets, we hope to help you on your way in Distant Reading.

The course is made up of five modules. These consist of pre-recorded mini-lectures, some instruction videos, and some readings.

Central to the modules are questions like: What is distant reading? How does it relates to 'macroscopic history'? A further question is which aspects of distant reading you would be interesting in trying to use. What suits you? Do you have a project where these techniques could prove useful? Can you think of a scenario where distant reading would be integral to your research work? when reading the texts, keep these questions in mind. You are not studying for an exam, but exploring techniques and possibilities that may be useful.

This course is taught by Milan, a PhD student at the NIOD, Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Ralf, a researcher at the same institute and a part-time professor of Social History at the Erasmus University.
Period06 Jul 202016 Jul 2020
Examination held at
  • Huizinga Instituut
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • digital history
  • distant reading
  • programming for historians
  • digital humanities
  • data analysis
  • text mining
  • digital sources
  • methodology
  • hermeneutics