Engineering Historical Memory

Dr Andrea Nanetti first theorised Engineering Historical Memory (EHM) when he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University in 2007. It may not be a coincidence that at the time Nanetti was reading Umberto Eco’s ‘Dall’albero al labirinto’ (Milan: Bompiani, 2007).

Antonio Carile’s 1960s studies on the ‘Partitio Imperii Romanie’ (i.e., ‘Partition of the Byzantine Empire’) made by the Latin powers of the Fourth Crusade in the aftermath of the second conquest of Constantinople, in 1204, inspired this project. In the absence of the original document of the ‘Partitio’, Carile worked on its critical edition, searching for copies in the manuscripts of about 2,000 Venetian chronicles (Carile 1965). During this research, he discovered several different versions of the Partitio and classified the codices of the Venetian chronicles into families accordingly (Carile 1969). However, this classification does not necessarily apply to the entire manuscript codex, in which a version of the ‘Partitio’ is recorded, but is confirmed only for the ‘Partitio’ itself. Based on this factual consideration, in 2007, Nanetti conceived a new method for what he called “the engineering of historical memory” (EHM). Firstly, he applied it to the critical analysis of the early modern chronicles of the Italian municipality of Imola that record the story of the city from its legendary Trojan origins until the annexation of Imola by the State of the Roman Church. The EHM method is based on the historical identification of individual stories (i.e., accounts of past events that can be philologically construed as modular components with a probable independent textual tradition) across all available manuscript codices and the matching of their content with the secondary literature that used them.

Since then, EHM is an ongoing research project that welcomes international and multidisciplinary collaboration to design and test interactive applications for virtual (re)organisation and delivery of historical knowledge in the digital age. The aim is to overcome linguistic obstacles and cultural barriers of historical research in a transcultural (re)reading of primary sources and secondary literature for the pre-modern history of the Afro-Eurasian continent, its people and their interactions between 1100 and 1500. The stage being the intercontinental communication networks by sea and by land as they were first identified by the German geographer Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen (1833-1905) in his magnum opus China (1877-1912). With equally and fairly engagement of different cultural environments in Europe, Africa, and Asia, this scholarly initiative also aims to contribute to the forging of international, intercultural, and interreligious dialogue and cooperation. [Full description here.]


People involved: credits, collaborators

Tags: Computational History, Premodern History of Afro-Eurasia