1st Edition

Computational Engineering of Historical Memories With a Showcase on Afro-Eurasia (ca 1100-1500 CE)

By Andrea Nanetti Copyright 2023
    186 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Nanetti outlines a methodology for deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance historical research.

    Historical events are the treasure of human experiences, the heritage that societies have used to remain resilient and express their identities. Nanetti has created and developed an interdisciplinary methodology supported by practice-based research that serves as a pathway between historical and computer sciences to design and build computational structures that analyse how societies create narratives about historical events. This consilience pathway aims to make historical memory machine-understandable. It turns history into a computational discipline through an interdisciplinary blend of philological accuracy, historical scholarship, history-based media projects, and computational tools. Nanetti presents the theory behind this methodology from a humanities perspective and discusses its practical application in user interface and experience.

    An essential read for historians and scholars working in the digital humanities.

    List of Figures

    List of Abbreviations




    1 Computational Engineering of Historical Memories

    1.1 Vision, Mission, and Motivation from a Human Sciences Perspective

    1.2 Reloading the Treasure of Human Experiences into the Digital Time Machine

    1.3 The Online System Engineering Historical Memory (EHM): Methods and Tools

    2 Historians and Computers

    2.1 Computers in the Historian’s Craft. Opportunities and Limits

    2.2 Reflections on the Training of Machine Learning Algorithms for the Next Generation of Historians

    2.3 Towards a Computational Approach to History. The Principle of Computational Equivalence and the Phenomenon of Computational Irreducibility in Historical Sciences

    3 History, Films, and Online Video Streaming

    3.1 Communicating History with Films

    3.1.1 Documentary Films

    3.1.2 Docudramas

    3.1.3 Feature Films

    3.1.4 Historical Dramas

    3.1.5 Compilation Films

    3.1.6 User-Generated Content

    3.2 Animated Picture as a Privileged Medium to Screen Historical Narratives in Films

    3.2.1 Using Animation to Adapt Historical Narratives in Films

    3.2.2 Significant Examples of History- Driven Animations

    3.3 Validating Historical Narratives in Films

    3.3.1 Acquiring Knowledge from History- Based Films. Opportunities and Challenges for the Audience Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ MUBI and Curiosity Stream YouTube and TikTok Vimeo History Channel TED

    3.3.2 The EHM Approach to Computational Validation of Historical Information in Films

    4 Languages and Cultures at the Computational Turn

    4.1 Gazing at the World as Seen from the Others

    4.2 A New Tower of Babel?

    4.3 Computational Approaches as Tools to Overcome Linguistic Obstacles and Cultural Barriers in the Historian’s Craft

    5 EHM Showcase on Afro-Eurasia (ca 1100–1500 CE)

    5.1 EHM Computational Engineering of Afro-Eurasian Communication Networks with a Focus on Waterways

    5.2 Venetian State-Run Galley Convoys as a Testbed to Design ABMs and Run Simulations

    5.3 Framing EHM in the Silk Road Discourse

    5.4 Epilogue without Conclusion



    Dr. Andrea Nanetti is an award-winning and internationally recognised expert in Digital Humanities. He has carried out trailblazing research in Europe, the United States, China, Africa, and South-East Asia for over 30 years. Since 2013, he has been a Professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Using the history of Venice as contextualised within late medieval Afro-Eurasian trade systems, he achieved international standing within a broad research spectrum that spans from critical editions of primary historical sources to computational applications and web-based media. As a result, several world’s top-level institutions, including Harvard University, Princeton University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Brown University, Johns Hopkins University, and Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, invited him to be a visiting fellow.

    “Dr. Nanetti’s research reimagines history in the golden age of AI. Computational history is not simply a stagnant past or the point of departure for an impending future but the anywhere door for other realities.”

    Dr. Chin-Yew Lin, Senior Principal Research Manager of the Knowledge Computing Group at Microsoft Research, Beijing, PRC.

    “Sitting at the intersection of history, computer science, media studies, and philosophy, Nanetti’s work justifies and maps a way forward for historians grappling with the implications of the digital turn. Computational methods offer solutions to obstacles of language and culture, not just those that separate regional scholarly traditions, but also those that separate academic scholarship from the public sphere. Put into practice in the Engineering Historical Memory platform, his ideas show the promise of digital approaches for expanding, rather than just streamlining, the production of historical knowledge.”

    Dr. Adam Kosto, Professor, Department of History, Columbia University, New York, USA.

    “Professor Nanetti has compiled a beautiful book demonstrating a vital step towards bringing traditional expert-intensive inquiries in historical materials and engineering tools and practices together into an integral system. This must-read book lays the groundwork for enabling machines to work with historical materials, leveraging extensive digital resources, including datasets and models in engineering and humanities. The book and its realization as interactive applications, the Engineering Historical Memory, will be the essential resource for anyone interested in designing and building engineering systems that can empower researchers in humanitiesand engage a broad audience in the general public. In a world with countless AI applications powering our daily life, this book showcases how we could work together to integrate new engineering technologies and historical materials and create powerful interactive systems encoding human experiences in the long term.”

    Dr. Yao-Yi Chiang, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota.

    ‘“Computational Engineering of Historical Memories’ is a particularly timely book – digital humanities is currently in danger of dissipating into a number of digital sub-disciplines. Andrea Nanetti introduces a suite of techniques to help understand global human history and then demonstrates how his approaches can be applied through some practice-based research. Professor Nanetti’s vision is to make historical memory machine-understandable and, ultimately, to turn history into a computational discipline. This is nothing if not revisionist and I commend this book for its ambition.”

    Roger Kain FBA, Professor of Humanities, School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK.