The Programming Historian

Ten years ago, the Programming Historian was born at the Network in Canadian History & Environment (NiCHE) In 2008, William J. Turkel and Alan MacEachern introduced the project by writing a series of tutorials aimed at historians looking to build their technical skills. It has attracted more than 1.3-million visitors.

The project was originally inspired by a gap. While Digital History had been an excellent resource for those seeking to put the past online, Turkel and MacEarchern worried that historians would lack to create digital tools for research. In 2008, the project has evolved into the co-written Programming Historian, focusing heavily on Python.

But the project had not yet reached its potential. The digital era had changed the types of problems many historians were having with their sources – particularly digital or digitized sources. Yet the traditional scholarly environment did not provide a venue for those conversations.

Some of the earlier contributors were environmental historians as in other countries, too. Jim Clifford, Daniel Macfarlane, and Josh MacFadyen produced a series of digital mapping lessons in 2013, which formed the cornerstone of our Geospatial Historian series. Since then, the project has branched in new directions, including tutorials as divergent as augmented reality, and data mining.

The project continues to grow in new directions. It is on the lookout for a French Language Team to help us move bravely forth into our second decade.

If you are interested in Digital History and read German please have look to my book “Geschichte Digital – Historische Welten neu vermessen”; You’ll find a short English summary on




Guido Koller

Senior Historian, Swiss Federal Archives, CH-3003 Berne, Switzerland

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