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From Digital to Distant Diplomatics

Project description

Digital and distant microanalysis of late medieval diplomatics

Diplomatics is a centuries-old scholarly discipline centred on the critical analysis of documents. Current methods are not sufficient to deal with the large number of documents created in Europe since the 13th century. The EU-funded DiDip project will bring diplomatics into the digital present. It will investigate European trends and regional differences in the production and use of 14th and 15th century charters. Among the questions, the project will answer using machine learning and computer vision: How do local and regional practices react to the spread of Roman law among European legal thinkers? How do the two widespread authentication practices, by seal and by notarial signature, relate to each other?


From Digital to Distant Diplomatics (DiDip) will bring modern computational methods to the transregional study of late medieval charters. It will answer questions about the spread and development of pan-European documentary practices and documentary culture in the later medieval period (c. 1300-1500). The project's novelty lies in 1. the scale of the endeavour, building upon a database of over half a million digitized charters from medieval and early modern Europe (the PI's and expanding it both numerically and qualitatively and 2. the application of cutting-edge ‘distant’ macroanalysis practices (Jockers 2013) to a Europe-wide dataset, producing findings that go beyond the traditional regional and single-institution related scope of diplomatics projects.
At the core of this project is the observation that the preponderance of studies in diplomatics have been and remain focused on smaller units, such as individual chanceries, collections of single institutions, or the practices of one country, language group or region (Jarret 2013) and the resignation of diplomatics scholars in the face of the large amount of documentation in the 14th and 15th century. How can we truly make an integrated study of European diplomatics in this period when it is largely addressed as a variety of hyperlocalized phenomena, without meaningful study of the relation of the practices of one area to another? The DiDip project answers this question by building a digital research environment to study the issue on a macro scale, improving the quality of research data and the methods available to enable greater breadth of study and provide findings that will point us towards a better understanding of the relationship of the various regional documentary cultures across Europe in the period.


Net EU contribution
€ 2 812 500,00
Universitatsplatz 3
8010 Graz

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Südösterreich Steiermark Graz
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)