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This discussion began with a discussion about what participants believe
vs. what networks actually are. But Steve Corman just wrote that getting
objective network information is very difficult: ďOne important point is
that it is extremely hard to even *get* observable behavior measures,
especially in a network of any appreciable size. So the studies that
have looked at this have used very small groups, strange contexts (e.g.
HAM radio operators who keep logs), questionable observation schemes
(walk through an organization every half hour and write down everyone
you see talking), or incomplete records of behavior (i.e. e-mail
flows).Ē I suspect thatís a common perception. But there is one vast
source that has been terribly under-exploited: notaries' record books.
As a result, it may be easier to get this data for the past, at least
for those areas of Europe heavily affected by Roman law.
I suspect that a lot of people on this list are familiar with John
Padgettís work, but perhaps it still bears emphasizing: notaries in
France, Spain and Italy (for example) kept books recording financial
transactions, such as sales of property and rentals, as well as personal
transactions ó wills and marriage contracts. It was standard to ask your
closest family friends to be the witnesses to your marriage contract.
The result is that your financial and personal links were recorded on
paper for posterity. These record books survive in absurd abundance,
beginning in the fifteenth century (or earlier in some places). They
include just about everybody, not just the elites... although far more
men than women, since women couldn't be witnesses, although they
obviously did get married, and they also made wills fairly often. I did
some baby network analysis for NÓmes during the Reformation, and I hope
to do more... I keep subscribed to this list as a gentle goad to remind
myself that I want to get better at working with the method. But the
only thing preventing people from creating networks of just about
anybody for those countries in those time periods is the tedium of the
data entry. You do have to know a foreign language, but especially for
the 1600s and 1700s, the handwriting is easy. I know France best, and
there big hunks of these records have even been microfilmed by the
Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) so you donít even have to go there to do the
work ó although personally Iím not sure thatís an advantage. In any
case, thereís a vast field out there for eager grad students and others.
Dept. of History and Art History
George Mason Univ.
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