Have I mentioned the Future is Digital?

At least until the lights (or internet) goes down.

I’m preparing my appeal to you faithful skulkers to assist me in my quixotic quest to create a more robust and usable dataset on early modern European wars. I envision keeping it simple, at least at the start, posting a series of spreadsheets (possibly on Google Sheets) with information about various aspects of early modern warfare. We don’t want to start from scratch, so I’ve downloaded the basic information on the period’s wars and combats (“battles”) from Wikipedia, via Wikidata queries using SPARQL. And I’ve been learning about graph databases in the process, which someone might consider a bonus.

Wikipedia??? Well, the way I see it, they’ve already entered in a lot of basic information, and many of the factual details are probably correct, at least to a first order approximation. So it should speed up the process and allow us to refine and play around with the beta data (say that fast three times) before it’s “complete,” however that’s defined.

Once the data sheets are up online, we can clean that information, I can collate it, and then we can open it to the world to play with – analyze, map, chart, combine with other data, whatever one’s heart desires. If someone wants to deal with the Wikipedia bureaucracy, they can try to inject it back into The Source of All Knowledge.

In the meantime, if you’re curious as to what someone with some programming skills and an efficiency-oriented mindset can create, you should check out the following blog post, wherein a data scientist collects all of the wars listed in Wikipedia (Ancient to recent), and then explores their durations and a few other attributes. Very cool stuff, and you gotta love the graphics.  Check it out at https://www.gokhan.io/post/scraping-wikipedia/. And just imagine what one could do with more granular data, and possibly more accurate data as well! Hopefully we’ll find out.

In the meantime, here’s a real simple map from a SPARQL query locating all of the “battles” listed in Wikidata (that have location information).


I’ll let you decide whether Europe and the eastern US really were that much more belligerent than the rest of the world. To the Methodology!

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3 responses to “Have I mentioned the Future is Digital?”

  1. Martin Jourdan says :

    You might want to include my Thesis on Marlborough’s logistics during the War of the Spanish Succesion

    • jostwald says :

      Congrats on the completed thesis. If you want to give me a cite, I’ll put it in Zotero.

      Also, think about what kind of general statistics one might record for the various wars, including the Allied armies in the WSS. Various operational stats that come to mind:
      -Date of each side entering the campaign (which might have several subsets)
      -Date of each side going into winter quarters
      -Date of any summer quarters for each side (e.g. in Spain)
      -Army sizes for each side (probably several measures, and it might be easiest to start with theoretical full strengths, possibly based off treaty obligations, supply contracts…)
      -Army mobility
      -Combinations of all of the above…

      I’d have to go back and look at my previous posts on army sizes and logistics, but there are probably a bunch more stats that might be available for different campaigns in different theaters in different wars. That might make it easier to see how much of an impact particular logistical ‘innovations’ or operational contexts had on operational performance.

      John Stapleton and I will be doing a lot of these operational analysis for our next project, but building up a dataset would be very helpful.

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