Ruth Ahnert and Sebastian Ahnert

Tudor Letter Networks: The Case for Quantitative Network Analysis

2013 Seminar Series / Thursday 21 November, 2013


In this paper, Ruth and Sebastian Ahnert discuss their work on the applications of quantitative network analysis (QNA) to Tudor letter collections. In a forthcoming publication they reconstruct and analyze the social and textual organization of the underground community of Protestants living in England during the reign of Mary I from a body of surviving letters now held in the British Library and Emmanuel College Library, Cambridge. QNA offers several ways of measuring how ‘well-connected’ an individual is. Unsurprisingly, martyrs are well connected by virtue of their social status and significant correspondence; the analysis, however, also reveals that other individuals are well connected, not as a result of a large number of connections, but because of who they are connected to. The latter category describes letter couriers and financial sustainers. These kinds of figures have special network properties; by measuring and comparing these properties it is possible to predict other figures who might have served similar roles.

Here, our speakers discuss the ways that they can apply the methods and measures they developed working on this relatively small dataset to their new research, which is based on the vast amount of correspondence collected in the State Papers dating from the accession of Henry VIII to the death of his daughter Elizabeth.

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