Hard data on our (soft) heads: the Lagosian intellectual network database

Maybe it is because I am married to a sociologist, or it is a kind of OCD, I am not so sure why, but I decided to organise my primary sources in a database. And, what is worse, now I am trying to squeeze some hard data out of it to back up my analysis of the Lagosian intellectual network!! So, I will tell you a bit about this ‘work in progress’ database, in a hope that you will not think that I am just finding an excuse to avoid real work.

The database has 3 main groups of information (tables): Books and Pamplhets; Lagosians and Newspapers. Each one has a ‘public’ face (a form) that we can be used to add new information and also to check it.

1) Books and Pamphlets:

You know I am writing about Lagosian print culture in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More specifically in books and pamphlets published on the second half of nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They have to be published in Lagos, or written by a Lagosian author, or talking about Lagos.

I have collected 315 titles so far (which is 10 times the usual number listed by many scholars): 125 I have an electronic copy and/or photocopy of it; the other 290 I got the information from other sources (I will talk about them in a bit)

So this is how the Books and Pamphlets form looks like (be kind, I am still working on the looks of it):Books and pamphlets

On the left we have the main info of the book: title, authors, publisher, city, year, language and number of pages.

Still on the left, there are details and notes more relevant to my thesis: if I have checked the info (eventually, when I have checked all of them, this will be removed); if I have read the book (very important!); in which chapters of my thesis I could use this reference, and some comments I may have. Right next to it, Debates and Subdebates, also refering to my thesis. If a book was part of a popular debate, I can use this field to tag it. In the example above, this book took part on the polygamy debate.

On the top right, I can take note if I have the publication or not (in file/not in file); and if I have, whether is an electronic and/or hard copy. If I don’t have it, there is a field to take note where this reference came from. In the example above, I got the information of this title from the Sierra Leone Weekly News, published on the 10th of September of 1887. Below this part, I can indicate if the book have never been published (some pamphlets were only printed to circulate in very small numbers like reports, academic monographs and mass books), and if there are any problem with this entry. I can also take some notes about it, for instance, if the copy I have is incomplete or badly damaged.

Right in the middle of the form we have a Link to the electronic copy of the book (If I have it, of course). The idea is that on a short future, I will be able to look the info of a book and click there if I want to see the real thing!

And finally, the last 3 fields that are the golden eggs of this database: Lagosians mentioned, Titles quoted and Newspapers. These are the fields that link the Books and Pamphlets table/form with the other 2 tables/forms: Lagosians and Newspapers. And to explain how this works, I have to talk about the other tables/forms before.

2) Lagosians:

Despite the name of this table, this is a list of all authors and people mentioned in the books. Even if they are not Lagosians.

The form is divided in two parts:

On the top we have the name and all the information I could gather about this person. Pseudonym, origin, nationality, birth and death, religion, religious places that attended, societies that were member, profession, home and professional addresses, family and any important life event:

On the bottom, there are two fields called publications by this author (one for books and other for newspapers), and 2 fields for publications that mentioned this author (one for books and another for newspapers). When we make an entry for an author (Let’s say Bishop Ingham, to use the same example above), his name appears on the list of authors and on the list of people mentioned of the Books and Pamphlets form.

And when you add a book to the Books and Pamphlets form, you can choose the author from the list. And because it is linked to the Lagosians form, this title will appear as publications by this author on the author entry. For instance, the info of the book from the example above, appears on Bishop Ingham entry in the Lagosians form as published by him.

(above: Bishop Ingham‘s entry at the Lagosian)

Regarding People mentioned by this publication, we can see on the first image of the Books and Pamphlet form that Payne was mentioned in Ingham’s publication. So, in Payne’s entry at the Lagosian Form, we can see the name, author and year of the book he was mentioned.

(above: Payne’s entry at the Lagosian)

3) Newspapers

The same logic of linking authors and people mentioned to their entries on Lagosians also works for the Newspaper form. Articles that were written by a known author, or that mentions one of the Lagosians already listed are added to the Newspapers Form and linked to the respective Lagosian entry.

For instance, Bishop Ingham was mentioned on this article published by the Sierra Leone Weekly News.

(Above: entry of a newspaper article that mentions Bishop Ingham)

So a reference to this article will appear in his Lagosian entry under publications that mentioned this Lagosian.

The Newspaper form is also linked to the Books and Pamphlet form. If an article mentions a book, I can choose the title from a list and the reference of the the newspaper article will appear on the books and pamphlets form (as you can see on the first image on this post).

I hope it is not too confusing! The main idea is that all the forms are linked and with this information I can see (literally) the authors that had more impact on the Lagosian intellectual scenario. Payne, as I argue in my thesis, is mentioned in many books and newspapers articles, so his impact was probably higher than usually is described by scholars.

I will post soon about how I intend to get some numbers out of this database, and how these would support some of my arguments.


Categories: Research, Studies, Teaching

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3 replies

  1. This looks like an amazing resource. I’m also incredibly impressed by the sheer *amount of resources you are using and how these ‘populate’ your database! And I can see so many other applications – also for my research and beyond; I am particularly thinking about letters and correspondents – linking correspondents to particular content, or correspondent relationships (family, lovers, friends, colleagues, collaborators) to geographies in relation to diasporic communication. That would be very exciting. I hope I haven’t misread the premise – have I?
    I am also very much struck by the kind of archival implications of this resource – theoretically speaking, how the content of ‘new’ archives (the information was always there, no?) alters current archival resources, and how this then alters the ways in which we ‘live’ that information, the ways in which we think information, narrativise it, make it material – and then, practically speaking, are there plans for this resource beyond your thesis? Please? Can we have it available, please thanks? And I wonder what you think of the implications of that, if there are any plans of that nature, or not?

    • oh Katie, you put the finger right on it! No concrete plans, just dreams to make it available and invite people to contribute to it. It has been a dream since the beginning of my PhD. For now, I am only using to help me with my research though, since making it available would require more time (and money of course).

      I will be glad to set something similar for your work! Let’s do it! This would be amazing!! Please?

      • I’d love to work on this with you, thank you please – yes! And on finding ways, and means, to launch it more widely. Let’s converse! x

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