Imperial Commoners of Brazil and West Africa (1640-1822):
global history from a correspondence network perspective
National Science Center of Poland: 2022/45/B/HS3/00473
Uncovering the Networks of Imperial Commoners and Their Impact on the Atlantic World
Global events have left their mark on the communication patterns of imperial commoners, and we are here to investigate how these individuals produced similar characteristics, shared ideas, narratives, and thinking strategies on both sides of the Atlantic coast. Our groundbreaking study will leverage cutting-edge natural language processing and network science techniques to analyze data on an unprecedented scale, exploring how these individuals communicated with government officials in both the colonies and the metropolis.
But we're not just interested in who wrote to whom, when, and about what. Our research aims to uncover macro-level political changes that are manifested in the structure of correspondence networks. By examining how different types of information reached officials of the realm, including the monarch, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of how the Atlantic Empire operated.
Through the lens of "connected histories," our project focuses on three Atlantic ports - Rio de Janeiro, Salvador da Bahia (Brazil), and Luanda (Angola) - to reveal both similarities and divergences within the shared history of the Atlantic Empire. We'll examine how concepts such as race, violence, and knowledge transfer developed differently in these spaces and how the agency of imperial commoners - from all walks of life - shaped the policies of Brazilian and West African colonial spaces.
Our study goes beyond the historical mainstream, revealing how smaller non-elite groups and their local networks influenced the development of the Global South from below.
Join us on our journey as we unravel the threads of empire and bring to light the important role of the colonies and the diverse agency of imperial commoners.
The Digital Humanities Line aims at developing a comprehensive dictionary of people, places, and institutions requires data mining techniques that involve identifying duplicates, name variations, and tracking name changes. Our team will also use association techniques to match titles and occupations, and extract relevant data such as birth and death dates, ethnic group, and historical occupations. To identify the semantic structure of large corpora, we will employ the Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) algorithm and utilize visualization and statistical methods to analyze multivariate time series. Finally, we will apply methods of positional analysis, centrality measurement, and Exponential-family Random Graph Models to examine the evolution of governance in the Portuguese Empire through changes in the network roles of its officials. Our research combines quantitative analysis with a deep understanding of historical events and local processes.
The Historical Research Line examines qualitative categorization of documents from overseas possessions based on social, administrative, political, religious, and economic information. It also creates a timeline of Portuguese-Atlantic colonial history to identify important legal and institutional changes, and periodizes significant economic, political, or commercial events. Additionally, it analyzes the interests and demands of citizens in the Atlantic Portuguese Empire from 1640 to 1822, focusing on the interaction between global and local concepts in the transatlantic and regional processes of identity and state formation in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador da Bahia, and Luanda. The research also aims to understand how ordinary people reacted to changes in empire policies and used Portuguese institutions to advance their interests, critically reflecting on different ways people questioned and dealt with their colonial experience.
Find out more about our research goals
We are proud to be affiliated with the Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences and to belong to the Department of Historical Atlas, where there is a strong team for modeling and analyzing historical research data. Our project focuses on using advanced data analysis techniques to gain insights into historical events and trends. We are grateful for the support of the National Science Center of Poland, which has awarded us grant number OPUS: 2022/45/B/HS3/00473 to conduct this important research. We are passionate about using our expertise to shed new light on the past and look forward to sharing our findings with the broader academic community.