The Connected History Project was begun as a student project for César Hidalgo's Networks and Their Applications class in the Spring of 2012. The goal of the project was to create a seed network from which a network of historical personages could be built. Beginning with Charles Darwin as the seed, we built a network from Freebase and the Darwin Correspondence Project, as well as The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Charles Darwin, A New Life, by John Bowlby. The network is only a starting place, and it is our hope that this seed can be expanded and refined over time. The network seed can be found on our Resources page, and many of the Tools we used can be found on the Tools page.
Why build a Connected History? Imagine a student tasked with learning about evolution. This student would, relatively soon after beginning, end up learning that Charles Darwin discovered evolution, probably from his Wikipedia page[link]. The student's teacher would consider this correct when grading the report, and that would be the end of it. Perhaps a lucky or curious/clever student would note the links to Darwin's peers in the sidebar, but maybe not. Perhaps the student's teacher would have a deep knowledge of science and be able to communicate that science is a collaborative practice, but maybe not.
The Connected History project aims to illuminate the relationships between the people of history, great and small, as a means of understanding how knowledge and culture is really made. It is ironic that Darwin could be singled out as such the great contributor, when in fact, he benefited from (for instance) the connections to his wife's wealthy family and his remarkable network of colleagues to research and develop the ideas of emergence in biological populations. What's more, Darwin also relied on a great number of "ordinary" people to arrive at and confirm his theories. For instance, he gathered a remarkable amount of data from citizen scientists (especially once he was famous) in order to build a clear picture of breeding patterns over generations.