CE38 - Révolution numérique : rapports au savoir et à la culture

Ontology-based Ancien Régime Data Infrastructure – ObARDI

Submission summary

The history of Ancien Régime institutions has been ingrained with a century-long metanarrative of the construction of the modern State, which still impedes our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of its development. Despite an illusory resemblance in vocabulary, categories of the State and civil society that are natural to us were undoubtedly alien to contemporaries three centuries ago. Furthermore, our cognitive representations of what constitutes a political territory remain bounded by geographical projections that were only progressively defined over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. How, then, can we better understand the dynamic relationships of power that presided over and fostered the constitution of the modern State without relying on these inherited categories?

To overcome these hurdles, we propose an innovative knowledge representation system of the dynamics of Ancien Régime institutions through the application of ontologies to historical data: the Ontology-based Ancien Régime Data Infrastructure (ObARDI). We will construct this infrastructure in four steps. First, we will assemble an extensive database of the local institutional, economic, and social environment of each of the former communes of 17th and 18th-century France—a layout that will serve as an interoperable matrix for Ancien Régime history. Second, we will integrate this data into a fully-structured information system through encompassing formal ontologies that will manage the geography of base territorial units, describe underlying source material and content, and provide source criticism tools to reinvent the historian’s laboratory. Third, we will render our infrastructure compliant with FAIR data management principles in a Linked Open Data perspective: it will be interoperable and accessible through an ergonomic web platform, which will constitute a tool in fostering the use of the digital humanities across various public. Finally, the resulting environment will enable us to create innovative cartographic tools to represent Ancien Régime territories as an evolving set of layered institutions which boundaries were structured by the relationships of power in their midst.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


MSHS-T Maison de l'Homme et de la Société de Toulouse
FRA.M.ESPA France, Amériques, Espagne, Sociétés, Pouvoirs, Acteurs
IRIT Institut de Recherche en Informatique de Toulouse

Help of the ANR 612,920 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2021 - 48 Months

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