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Response to Review of Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope

The authors of Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope would like to thank Adam Crymble for his thoughtful and engaged review, as well as Reviews in History for making it possible. Crymble provides an excellent overview of our main arguments, approach, and methods. As Crymble points out, our book really does see itself as a spiritual successor to Cohen and Rosenzweig: long-form scholarship that makes the case for the importance of digital history today.

The tensions around writing for the book format have been with the project from its inception, and Crymble gives much to think about around the medium itself. A full-length book has substantial rhetorical power within the historical field, and, crucially, our goal was to normalize data-centric approaches so that students, faculty, and everyday people interested in history can recognize digital methods as an essential part of the toolkit. Today’s readers can use our practical examples as stepping stones between the theories the book presents and more specialized instructions offered by online content like The Programming Historian (2015). As the technologies the book covers get replaced, readers of our book will rely more heavily on digital resources for practical instruction while still applying the core principles taught in The Historian’s Macroscope. This style of future-proofing was on our mind, but Crymble raises a critical point: time will tell.

Crymble’s specific points around the quality of colour visualizations in a print book are a good one, and we’ll be keeping our eyes on our analytics and reader feedback to see who avails themselves of the online versions. While we intend our readers, like the historian at their macroscope, to seamlessly jump between print and digital media, we rely on readers’ actions to help us improve any future editions. In the meantime, inspired by Crymble’s comments, we are releasing a downloadable supplement which includes all images and files for those reading the book without persistent web access.