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Webinar | A Digital History Light approach to using Jupyter Notebook for text mining in personal documents of Indies-veterans | Stef Scagliola

08/09/2022 @ 15:30 - 17:00

When considering current academic research and education agendas the terms data science and artificial intelligence are omnipresent. Yet the integration of such methods into the regular curriculum of humanities students is cumbersome. Time constraints and the way curricula and learning spaces are structured seem to be recurrent obstacles for the uptake of digital methods. Aside from practical aspects there are psychological barriers that are reinforced by cliches about the inability of tech people and computer illiterate people to understand each other.

What is seldom taken into consideration is the possibility of a ‘digital light’ approach. With this term I want to introduce the principle of breaking up the digital method or tool in small parts and selecting only features to teach that connect directly to the methodology and interest of the historian and can be presented – both in visual as in conceptual sense – in an environment that is ‘known’. I claim that by setting a low threshold and creating a satisfying experience it is easier to generate interest in and foster understanding of the affordances and limitations of digital methods in humanities disciplines.

This position will be illustrated through a case study in which a very basic set of Python rules presented in an interactive Jupiter notebook environment was used to teach a small group of historians (8 master students, 1 PhD and 1 lecturer) to apply text mining to a database of 700 veteran memoirs.

By tweaking an existing master course on the Decolonisation war in Indonesia that is taught by Thijs Brocades Zaalberg at Leiden University, and by focusing on three databases of personal documents – diaries, memoirs and interviews – that can be accessed online, we explored the feasibility of a ‘digital light’ approach.


Stef Scagliola is a fellow at the KITLV. She is a historian who works at the crossroads of classical historical research and digital history. She has a fascination for disclosing uneasy truths and explaining complex problems in an accessible way. She is an expert on Dutch veterans of the Dutch/Indonesian de/recolonisation war (1945-1949). This was built up during her PhD research leading to the publication Last van de Oorlog, de Nederlandse oorlogsmisdaden in Indonesie en hun verwerking (2002) [Burden war, coming to terms with the Dutch war crimes in Indonesia]. A follow up project relating to Dutch veterans that she initiated and led, was the large scale oral history project ‘Interview Collectie Nederlandse Veteranen’ (Dutch Veterans Oral History Project) from 2007 to 2011.


David Kloos, senior researcher at KITLV.

Format, time & venue

This webinar will be a hybrid event and will be held in the conference room of KITLV (room 1.68) and online via Zoom. Time: 15.30 h – 17.00 h CET.


Registration is required. If you want to attend this book talk on location, please register via: [email protected].
Seats are limited.

If you wish to attend the webinar online, please register here: first:https://universiteitleiden.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9KdLmeHKQ0y1rzkl0cy09Q

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


By Stef Scagliola.


15:30 - 17:00
Event Category:


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KITLV, room 1.68 & via Zoom