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Conference Papers Year : 2024

A digital exploration of geographic knowledge in Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie

Abstract

How was geography communicated in Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie (1751-72)? In this presentation, the interdisciplinary GEODE team will investigate the role of geographical knowledge within this encyclopedia, as part of our larger project to study these themes across French encyclopedias from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries. The Encyclopédie consists of 17 volumes of text (~74k articles, or 22M words) and 11 volumes of plates. And yet, the latter contain no maps. Apart from some pages (vol. 5 of plates) related to the “construction of globes” all the geography of the Encyclopédie is contained in the volumes of text. Addressing critics of the approach to the selection of knowledge shared throughout the work in his “Encyclopédie” article (vol. 5 of text), Diderot argues that an Encyclopedia might be seen as “dry”, but that its role is to share geographical knowledge of places that is “scientific”. It should be able to be used to “create good maps”. We take up Diderot’s call, using information retrieval and spatial analysis to create a dataset of all place names in the Encyclopédie, identify historical spatial coordinates as reported in the text, and connect all named places to modern coordinates through entity linking. The resulting dataset allows us to map the Encyclopédie. We explore the spatial coverage of the text, including the outsized representation of certain parts of the world, like France. In addition to this explicit geospatial approach to the data, we use network analysis to explore references to places across articles and volumes. Using such a variety of methods, for the first time, we name, define, classify, and locate, and map places in this key Enlightenment text.
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hal-04625233 , version 1 (05-07-2024)

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  • HAL Id : hal-04625233 , version 1

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Thierry Joliveau, Ludovic Moncla, Antoine Taroni, Denis Vigier, Katherine Mcdonough. A digital exploration of geographic knowledge in Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie. 30th International Conference on the History of Cartography (ICHC), Jul 2024, Lyon, France. ⟨hal-04625233⟩
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