Lighthouse development by private and public entrepreneurship 1690-1911.

In his seminal 1974 paper, ‘The Lighthouse in Economics’, 1991 Nobel Prize winner Ronald Coase criticised then-commonplace idea from J.S. Mill and Arthur Pigou that lighthouses were an essential public good necessarily provided by the state due to the difficulty of charging passing ships sailing far out at sea. Coase pointed to the 'private' entrepreneurs …

A method to machine read messy early manuscript sources and to automatically create clean structured historical data.

I have been experimenting with automatic handwriting recognition software called Transkribus. This has been used to transcribe letters and handwritten notes but for database creation, as far as I know. The image above shows a training model for text recognition I am building for the port books of Bridgewater 1672-77. Port books contain entries for …

New British export data for research in energy embodiment in trade, 1862-1908

Britain has exported masses manufactures and raw materials over the last few centuries. Better shipping, steam engines, and safer seas allowed for a massive expansion of trade in the nineteenth century. This map charts coal exports from Great Britain (incl. Ireland) to primary destination countries at a key time 1862-1908 and was built in Excel …

English ‘ship-panel data’, 1650-1700: a new method for analysing ship speeds in coastal trades using port books.

Coastal trade and trasnport was long the mode of choice for shippers of heavy goods between home ports on British short-sea routes. Coal, timber, metals, food, and myriad consumer items were sailed, steamed and shunted around British coasts since the earliest times. This service came to play an important yet under-researched role in the British …