Geo Resolution for Historians

A common problem for Pelagios Commons community members is the lack of research tools adapted for non-English languages. When trying to identify and locate places mentioned in texts written in French, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, etc., existing resources fall short.

Historian Katherine McDonough and I propose to address this problem for early modern French texts. Our initial work is to identify and locate places mentioned in Diderot’s 18th-century Encyclopédie (provided by ARTFL). To this end, we have designed GeoViz. an online interface for annotating place names. GeoViz allows us to review results we obtained using the Edinburgh Geoparser. Additionally, a subset of the Encyclopédie articles (“gold standard set”) is fully hand annotated.

The GeoViz validation interface is fully customisable. As a result, scholars can achieve a close match between validation options and the nature of their sources. For instance, given the content of the Encyclopédie articles, we have chosen to identify:

  • when a place name is part of a person’s title (e.g. le roi de France),
  • and where other places mentioned in an article are in relation to the article headword (for example, we can indicate that Curaçao is west of Bonnaire).

These details from our gold standard set will help us to refine geo resolution rules and take our research to the next level.