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Spatial History and Historical GIS

This course introduces students to the emerging methodologies that combine geographic information systems (GIS) with historical thinking.
Buildings in the French Quarter
A few blocks on the Lower East Side as documented in William Perris’ 1852 Maps of the City of New York. (Source: New York Public Library)
Individual records from the 1880 US Census. (Source:

This course introduces the emerging methodologies that combines geographic information systems (GIS) with traditional “historical thinking.” There are three goals for this course. First, students will learn basic technical skills in GIS used by spatial historians. Students are not required to have prior experience in GIS to enroll in this course, but basic computer literacy is essential. Second, through weekly readings, students will engage with scholarship/projects that use historical geographic information systems (HGIS) and with the broader spatial humanities. Students will be encouraged to consider the new topics/questions historians are investigating with HGIS and the new evidence HGIS provides to historiographical debates. The readings on HGIS research serve as starting points for class discussions on the strengths and limitations of this new methodology. Additional readings on HGIS methods provide examples of analytical tools, and students will be challenged to think of new methods that can aid in answering historiographical questions as well. Finally, students will undertake a small spatial history project. Through this research project, students will learn research and project management skills, which are increasingly necessary for historians in the digital age, while refining an intervention in the historiography.

Fall 2020 Registration

Friday 9:10-11am 

History GU4920 Online 

Instructor: Wright Kennedy, Postdoctoral Research Scholar in the Department of History