Should we write about history, or about doing history?

Analysing the role of methodology in digital history and Swedish intellectual history


  • Jacob Orrje Uppsala universitet & Centrum för vetenskapshistoria, Kungliga vetenskapsakademien



history writing, method, digital history, history of science and ideas, distant reading, collocation analysis


This article explores diverging ways of accounting for methodological questions in the history writing of digital history on one hand, and Swedish intellectual history (idé- och lärdomshistoria) on the other. By highlighting differences in how the two fields treat these central historiographical issues, I aim better to understand some of the difficulties of conducting and publishing research in Swedish intellectual history, based on digital-history methods. The study is separated into two sections: first, I make a qualitative analysis of texts containing reflexive discussions on method, produced during the early discipline-forming phases of each field. Then, I do a distant reading of peer-reviewed articles in Lychnos published 2005–2020, as well as of a recent edited volume in digital history. This analysis provides an overview of recent discussions on method in these two fields, while it at the same time serves as an example of how such methods shape the way we write history.