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ISSN 0869-5377
The Logos Journal

The History of Humanities Computing

Author: Hockey Susan

About author:
Emeritus Professor of Library and Information Studies (SLAIS) at the Department of Information Studies of the University College London (UCL). Address: Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom. E-mail:

The author traces the history of the Digital Humanities (humanities computing) from 1950 to 1990. She starts from Roberto Busa’s pioneering endeavour to render the works of Thomas Aquinas automatically treatable, and goes on to look at the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). The article covers a variety of methods and a large range of topics, with a clear interdisciplinary inclination. By its very nature, humanities computing has had to embrace “the two cultures,” to bring in the rigour and the unambiguous, systematic, procedural methodologies characteristic of the sciences to address problems within the humanities that had hitherto been most often treated in an intuitive and serendipitous fashion. The pinnacle of achievement for this period has been the TEI, which has influenced the professional community as a whole. Humanities computing can contribute substantially to the growing interest in putting humanity’s cultural heritage on the internet, not only for academic users, but also for lifelong learners and the general public. Our tools and techniques can also assist researchers in facilitating the digitization and encoding processes, where ways to reduce the costs of data creation, without loss of scholarly value or functionality, have to be found. Throughout its history, humanities computing has shown a healthy appetite for imagination and innovation, while continuing to maintain high scholarly standards. Now that the internet is such a dominant feature of everyday life, the opportunity exists for humanities computing to reach out much further than has hitherto been possible.

Keywords: computing; methodology; digitization; encoding; data

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