I’ve been blogging a good bit about my own interest in the use of GIS in historical research and teaching. So I thought I’d pass along a little bit of data about the rise of GIS in the historical profession. I supervise a postdoctoral fellowship program here at GMU and in that capacity run the search for new postdocs each year. In the five years that I’ve been at it, I’ve read something like 450 applications for the fellowship, spread across all of European history–from very ancient to very contemporary. Reading all those applications offers me a great opportunity to see what’s happening in PhD programs these days.
Five years ago we received exactly zero applications that included some use of GIS in the candidate’s research. The same was true four and three years ago. Last year we had two. This year we had six. In addition, we had two tenure-track searches this year. I sat on the European history search committee and we had three applications that included some use of GIS. I don’t know how many there were in the American history search, but one of the three finalists we brought to campus used GIS extensively.
These numbers are still small, as compared to the number of candidates who are writing about “sites of memory” and “commemorative practices”, but I’m convinced it is just the beginning of what will become a very generative line of methodological innovation.