Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Dec. 12, 2021, 8:13 a.m. Humanist 35.405 - use of Python for projects

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 405.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2021-12-11 12:30:23+00:00
        From: Wust, Markus <>
        Subject: AW: [Humanist] 35.378: use of Python for projects

Dear all,

I wanted to thank everybody who replied to my question about DH projects that
used Python in some way or another. It will be hard to just pick a few of them!

Following is the list of projects you all pointed out (in no particular order),
as well as a couple of useful resources that were mentioned.


- Bird's-eye-views of
American cities
Collecting metadata through API. Generating GeoJSON file.

- HathiTrust Research Center
Extensive use of Python at many stages. Production, teaching and dissemination
of Extracted Features Set.
See also:

Using Python as part of a project that uses AI to analyze TV shows

- Digital edition of the Estoria de Espanna
Converting TEI XML files to HTML

- China Studies Online
Data cleaning and keyword extraction

licanEraOpenAccess/sheet2: location of open access periodicals in the Late Qing
and Republican Eras
Metadata extraction

- Digital Latin Library
Data collection and preparation

- Oxoce: An "automated system for scanning, organizing, and structuring
historical data"
Application was written in Python

- Gabor Mihaly Toth, In Search of the Drowned:
Testimonies and Testimonial Fragments of the Holocaust (Yale Fortunoff Archive,
Data collection and backend of website

- Analysis of gender and gender
rols in text corpus
Data analysis

- (Auto)biographical
practices of Russian Author on the Internet (in German)
Data collection and analysis

- Digital Prosopography of the Roman Republic
Web platform built with Python

- People of Medieval Scotland
Web platform built with Python

- Zeta
for contrastive analysis of literary texts (in German)
Data analysis

Programming Historian:
Python Tutorials for the Humanities:


As to Henry Schaffer's question of why Python has become so popular in the
Digital Humanities: I would agree with his point that the size and diversity of
its package library is a major factor. I'm teaching an general "Introduction to
Programming with Python" course here in Tübingen that is not targeted towards
any specific discipline but instead draws students from all faculties at the
University. Here, Python provides both a (relatively) gentle introduction to
programming and a basis for further discipline-specific studies where students
can later familiarize themselves with packages relevant to their respective
needs. I personally like the fact that I can use Python to automate some aspects
of my teaching, write programs to improve library services, and have some fun
creating code for Raspberry Pi projects. Although I don't use that functionality
at this point, another benefit for some would be that many applications (e.g.,
Blender, Maya, QGIS) allow you to automate processes using Python scripts.

Again, thanks to everybody for their feedback and all the best,
Markus Wust

Von: Humanist <>
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 1. Dezember 2021 08:04:28
An: Wust, Markus
Betreff: [Humanist] 35.378: use of Python for projects

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 378.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                                 Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

    [1]    From: Henry Schaffer <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.375: use of Python for projects? (65)

    [2]    From: Henry Schaffer <>
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.375: use of Python for projects? (4)

    [3]    From: Rath, Brigitte <>
           Subject: AW: [Humanist] 35.375: use of Python for projects? (21)

        Date: 2021-11-30 15:17:20+00:00
        From: Henry Schaffer <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.375: use of Python for projects?

What's so great about Python? (I'm referring to the programming language.)
(Forgive me Markus, I'm not picking on you, but this post did trigger a
thought or two.)

Having been in computing a fair amount of time, I've grown accustomed to
the hype accompanying each new language and the gushing delight of its
supporters. To be fair, usually a new language has some needed capabilities
which are useful to many - otherwise it would gain little traction. But
usually it isn't so much the language itself, as the supporting software
- the libraries - that are responsible for growth in use and then the
adding features. FORTRAN and C had pretty extensive subroutine libraries
accompanying them and even today they (i.e. their current versions)
continue in the mainstream. Maybe not tops in number of users (that number
is heavily influenced by "light weight"  users) but in impact.

Python today has a large number of really helpful libraries
(e.g.TensorFlow, Scikit-Learn, Numpy, Keras, PyTorch, LightGBM, Eli5,
SciPy, ...) which are why many (most?) users are so avid. Nothing wrong
with that, but that total environment should be recognized when discussing
the popularity of Python.

There were many languages which introduced really helpful new
features/capabilities to the digital humanities area (e.g. SNOBOL4) but
never caught on. I imagine that there could be an illuminating study of the
reasons why SNOBOL4, APL and other excellent languages never caught on.
Also why Perl with its capabilities and supporting libraries is being
replaced by Python in the digital humanities (I'm not referring to
scientific computing where the lack of typing impacts performance.)


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