Understanding the Past with Network Analysis

John R. Ladd | @johnrladd | 30 March 2022


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What I’ll Talk About:

  • Historical network reconstruction in Six Degrees of Francis Bacon
  • Networks from text documents in Imaginative Networks
  • Node similarity in Networks of Biography

Six Degrees of Francis Bacon

The SDFB Website


Inferring a Network

From Warren et al., “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon,” DHQ 10.3 (2016)

The full SDFB Network


Crowdsourcing Networks

Imaginative Networks

Named Entity Recognition

The dedication to Hartlib’s Macaria.

Creating the Network

The top ten names (in blue) appearing in 1660s dedications (in orange).

Measuring the Network

Betweenness centrality of Elizabeth I over time

From Ladd, “Imaginative Networks,” JCA 6.1 (2021)

Measuring the Network

Avg. clustering coefficient (compared to random graphs), 1630-1670

From Ladd, “Imaginative Networks,” JCA 6.1 (2021)

Comparing Networks of Biography

John Aubrey’s Brief Lives

“We may be able to hear, through him, the 17th century talking to and about itself.”

Kate Bennett, ed. Brief Lives (2016)

Community Detection

Role Detection

A time-sliced subset of Six Degrees of Francis Bacon data.

Community Detection

Role Detection

Who’s in Role 3?

  • Lucy Hutchinson
  • Margaret Cavendish
  • Aphra Behn
  • John Milton
  • John Locke
  • Robert Hooke
  • Isaac Newton
  • Katherine Jones
  • and John Aubrey

Network Navigator

Network Analysis + Digital Art History

Thank You!

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