Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

Deep Dive Winter 2019

Lecture: How Disasters Begin: The Little Ice Age of 14th-Century China and Data Collection in the Long Durée 

Speaker: Professor Dagmar Schäfer, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Time: Thursday, April 4, 2019 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Location: Clark Library Instructional Space (240 Hatcher Graduate Library)

Free and Open to the Public
Light refreshment will be provided.

This lecture tackles the historical construction of weather as disaster. The genre of Local Gazetteers (difang zhi 地方誌) records a considerable number of disasters for the period of the Yuan-dynasty (1279-1368). The political nature of these data is well known and yet, scientists from the early 20th to the 21st era of anthropocene debates have used them, not only to advance their political agenda, but also their sciences. This lecture will lead you through the way in which contemporary actors of the Yuan, Ming historians, and Chinese scientists from Zhu Kezhen to modern climatologists and historians produce(d) and use(d) ideas about weather and disaster. The focus of this lecture will be on the changing relations such actors draw between local knowledge, history, and imperial cosmology, i.e. since the 20th century also “local knowledge,” historical analysis, and geology and climate science.

Dagmar Schäfer is the Director of Department III (Artefacts, Action, & Knowledge) at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG). A prominent scholar in the history and sociology of technology of China, she focuses on the paradigms configuring the discourse on technological development, past and present. She has published widely on the premodern history of China (Song-Ming) and technology, materiality, the processes and structures that lead to varying knowledge systems, and the changing role of artifacts—texts, objects, and spaces—in the creation, diffusion, and use of scientific and technological knowledge. Her monograph The Crafting of the 10,000 Things (University of Chicago Press, 2011) won the Joseph Levenson Prize (Association for Asian Studies) in 2013 the Pfizer Award (History of Science Society) in 2012.

Workshop on LoGaRT, the Local Gazetteers Research Tools

Speaker: Dr. Shih-Pei Chen 陳詩珮, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Time: Friday, April 5, 2019 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: ScholarSpace (206 Hatcher Graduate Library)

Open to faculty and students whose research relates to China or digital scholarship.

Registration required, please click HERE to register if you are a U-M affiliate.

Non-U-M registrants should email Liangyu Fu at

Digital Scholarship Workshop Travel Grants: A limited number of travel grants are available to non-U-M affiliates in Chinese studies who wish to attend the workshop. Please note that the travel grant can be used to attend both the lecture and the workshop, but are dependent on scholars registering for and attending the workshop. For more information on the travel grants and how to apply, please click HERE.

Light lunch will be provided. The classroom is equipped with laptops, but please feel free to bring your own.

Local Gazetteers have been major primary sources for studying locality within historical China. They documented topics far beyond geographical landscape, including flora and fauna, local products, temples and schools, officials and celebrities, local culture and customs, and much more. With the availability of a significant amount of pre-1949 digital local gazetteers, it is now possible for scholars to use the available digital gazetteers collectively to answer questions on historical China. The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science built LoGaRT to allow scholars to search and collect data across gazetteers (and thus across regions and periods) and to map and visually analyse them.

In this workshop, we will show the features of LoGaRT in a detailed and hands-on manner. With LoGaRT, one can quickly search through the available digital local gazetteers and find phenomena without being limited by the physical titles, regions, and time periods. Any search result can be immediately displayed on an interactive mapping interface for the user to see the geospatial and temporal distribution of results. The tagging interface of LoGaRT allows scholars to transform lists of things — temples, flora and fauna, officials, etc. — which is a common format across local gazetteers for recording local knowledge, into computer understandable tables for further computer-assisted analyses. Through this workshop, we will demonstrate that a new digital research methodology that uses a historical genre as a conceptual database for inquiries is now possible by the availability of digital full texts as well as appropriate tools. 

Shih-Pei Chen is the Digital Content Curator at MPIWG. She organizes digital research projects in collaboration with scholars at MPIWG that explore ways of analyzing historical texts, including text mining, visual and geospatial analytics, for the study of History of science, technology, medicine. Her research is to develop digital research methodologies that are useful for the broader field of historical and humanities research.