Dr Alexis Litvine
I am a European born in Paris from a Belgian father of Russian descent and a French mother born in Warsaw but raised in Japan, and I have now become British (yet probably not English, as was once predicted by Prof Tim Blanning). Before moving to Cambridge, I have lived in France, Italy, and Argentina. I got my first degrees in sociology and philosophy before specialising in history as a graduate student at the Ecole Normale Supérieure LSH and Sciences-Po in Paris. I was incredibly lucky to come next to Cambridge to do an MPhil (with Prof Peter Mandler) and, later, a PhD (with Prof Martin Daunton). I was subsequently awarded a four-year research fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge. I have since then held several teaching positions at Cambridge and Birkbeck, as University lecturer and College lecturer, first at Gonville and Caius College and now Pembroke College.
More importantly, I have two fantastic little boys who teach me about Lego dragons, William Tell, and "tectonic plaques" (sic.) over dinner.
My research has several distinctive strands.
I am, first, a cultural economic historian interested in:
- The cultural history of the economy, especially popular understandings of the economy
- The social construction and diffusion of economic norms in Europe during the 19th century
- The history of temporality and spatiality, especially in the context of industrialisation
- The social construction of technologies, the usage of technology and deviance, and the history of failed technologies mostly, so far, in the case of spinning and reeling, milling, and mechanical labour control and surveillance.
I also work on the comparative economic history of France and Europe since 1700:
- European commercial and economic integration during the second half of the nineteenth century
- Occupational structure and economic performance of France in the long run
- Living standards during the Industrial Revolution
- Economic geography of industrialisation
Finally, I have recently developped a strong interest in Digital Humanities, and specifically:
- Geospatial analysis
- Corpus linguistics
- Handwritten Text Recognition for complex historical documents, combining advances in the fields of Computer Vision and Natural Language Processing to extract and process very large amount (several millions and in some cases billions of images) of historical data.
- Gamification in historical learning
I supervise students on all areas of French/European economic and social history, the history of temporality and spatiality, and the history and political economy of industrialisation in Europe.
Anyone interested in using occupational data for French economic history, studying historical market integration, or living standards in the long run would be particularly welcome to contact me.
I also have a wealth of individual-level census data for the nineteenth century available and only waiting to be processed. This could be done by undergraduates looking for dissertation material, or MPhil/PhD student with quant. skills. This can lead to very significant revisions of the historiography and give anyone interested a real feel of the most advanced techniques for data treatment.
More generally, I welcome new students applying innovative DH methods to the study of economic history.
Undergraduate dissertation topics: I strongly encourage any undergraduate interested in French economic history and considering doing a dissertation to contact me. I have TONS of ready-to-use material to work on, and they would lead to very interesting new research projects. Current sources waiting for keen undergraduates include: nineteenth-century French censuses (individual listings - social, economic and demographic), collected volumes on inland navigation (geospatial and economic), military conscription data (history of literacy, living standards, and occupational structure), pre-revolutionary French parish maps (cultural administrative history, geography), history of storms (yes, storms have a history, too) in the British Isles.
- Modern European History, 1715-1890
- Modern British Social and Economic History, 1700-1880
- MPhils in British History, Modern European History, Economic and Social History and Digital Humanities
- ANR-COMMUNES (€490k), with Prof Isabelle Séguy (INED, PARIS) and Prof Thomas Thévenin (Université de Bourgogne), funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR). This project is building the first historical-GIS capturing all changes in the boundaries of French communes since the Revolution and create a multi-modal dataset of transport networks from 1750 to the present. We are also creating homogeneous and comparable data on population and accessibility since 1750. Check our webpage (www.anrcommunes.fr) for updates on this sprawling research project, and do not hesitate to get in touch if you have a question.
- LIGHTHOUSE REDIVIVUS (£94,730), led by Dr Leigh Shaw-Taylor, with Prof Dan Bogart, funded by the Keynes Trust. This project looks at historical shipping, the role of publicly funded infrastructures in productivity growth, the role of the state in the protection of working conditions using highly innovative methodologies from computational geospatial modelling and urban planning/economics.
- GAMING THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION (£47,000), with Dr Juan Hiriart (University of Salford), funded by the Arts and Humanities Impact Fund, the ESRC and the University of Salford. This project consists in developing a prototype for a video game, which will be used by teachers to teach the Industrial Revolution. The game is developed jointly by teachers, academics and game developers, and impact on learning is measured through in-class testing. We are currently applying to the Education Endowment Fund to roll out the game in a large number of settings and provide the first ever rigorous measure of impact for in-class gamified historical learning.
- I am one of the leading CIs, with Dr Amy Erickson (Cambridge), and Dr Maria Abreu (Cambridge, Land Economy) on a (very) large ESRC Research Centre grant application (£10M) led by Dr Shaw-Taylor (Cambridge) called ReGrow. If funded, it will provide new high spatial resolution data infrastructure (HDI) to analyse regional growth, divergence, convergence, resilience and decline since 1700. By collaborating with leading economists such as: Gilles Duranton (U.Penn), Vernon Henderson (LSE), Thomas Piketty (PSE), Steve Redding (Princeton), and Tony Venables (Oxford) ReGrow will both provide theoretical development in urban economics and draw relevant policy insights form historical data.
- I am a founder and co-director of InCAM, an interdisciplinary research hub jointly held at INED (Paris, France) and CAMPOP (Cambridge). It combines the strength of the two institutions and their researchers to break new ground in the creation of a methodology for spatial quantitative economic and demographic history. We are now seeking funding to support the development of this network. If you are interested in joining this hub, or would like to benefit from a research stay at INED/Cambridge, please contact me directly to discuss it.
- ExPLOT (www.explot.org); I am the co-convenor of the ExPLOT network, which is an interdisciplinary group of scholars who are exploring past landscapes using a range of digital and computational tools to research the geographies and histories of times past. In Cambridge, innovative geo-spatial work is being carried out in geography, history, archaeology, anthropology, architecture and urban studies. ExPLOT is a forum to exchange and present results and methodologies across all these disciplines. If you are interested in these topics you can attend our events by joining our mailing list.
- I am one of the founders of THOTH, and I work as a consultant for data extraction/transformation on several research projects (www.thothtranscription.org). THOTH allows researchers and institutions holding large collections of handwritten records to obtain a transcription of their data in a directly usable dataset format. If you have lots of data to transcribe, check it out it might transform the way you think about your material and what is possible to do with it.
- This led to creating a company called Osiris-Ai (www.osiris-ai.com) providing historical data extraction at scale.
- I have just completed the first translation into English of an unpublished series of short stories by Franco-Swiss modernist writer Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961) with Dr Luke Warde and Miss Ruth Murphy.
- I am currently developing a video game to help teach economic history to KS3 students (secondary-school level). An overview of the game and the project is available at www.ireevolution.com. Check it out! It's great fun.
- Osamu Saito
- Dr Yiannos Stathopoulos - Computer Lab, Cambridge
- Dr Max Satchell - Geography, Cambridge
- Dr Isabelle Séguy - INED, Paris
- Prof Thomas Thévenin - ThEMA, MSH, Université de Bourgogne
- Dr Christophe Mimeur - LVMT, Paris
- Prof Carmen Sarasua - UAB, Barcelona
- Prof Michael Pammer - JKU, Linz
- Dr Günter Mühlberger - Innsbruck, READ, Austria