International Affiliated Organizations

Comité international pour la métrologie historique – Historical Metrology and the Challenges of Digital Research in Economic History
Session code
Date Time
Thursday, August 25th / 14.00-17.30
Werner Scheltjens; Markus A. Denzel
Collegium Historicum, 3.138

Historians working with sources of preindustrial economic history, such as customs registers, trade statistics, or a merchant's account books, are confronted with a wide variety of weights, measures and currencies that were used to establish the volumes and values of commodities carried on maritime, riverine and overland routes. Until the present day, no encompassing and reliable electronic datasets are available that account for local and regional differences in the practical uses of historical weights and measures, their development over time, their semantic equivalents in different languages, or their corresponding values in standardized systems of measurement. Moreover, several aspects of the processes of packaging, weighing and measuring of commodities are still not entirely familiar. Dealing with historical weights, measures and currencies as well as their different uses still is a painstaking task.
At the same time, the last two decades have shown remarkable progress in the digitization of sources, images and artefacts. So far, however, the discipline of historical metrology has not benefited from these developments. We argue that a first step towards overcoming these issues would be to face and embrace the challenges of digital historical research. The panel aims to elaborate a strategy for bringing historical metrology into the twenty-first century. In the panel, historians and digital humanists working with primary sources of preindustrial economic history share their experiences and approaches in the processing premodern units of measurement. Based on these presentations, the panel aims to establish an agenda for the subsequent development and application of digital research and data processing methods to the benefit of the field of historical metrology.