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The Encoding

This project uses TEI markup, building on decades of discussion about how to represent a wide range of textualities. Many of these uses are unmodified. For example, elements like <persName>, <placeName>, <title>, and <quote> are used to record references to persons, places, texts, and quotations. Making Room in History also uses @ref and @source to link to a bibliography and a personography, making it possible to track historical figures across multiple texts and to record details of citation and intertextuality. I am currently developing internal documentation for the project to provide a fuller account of its encoding practices.

In addition to some unmodified TEI encoding, this project also incorporates several customized elements and attributes, which I have developed out of my previous research into the literary and historiographic cultures of early modern Britain and Ireland. The most significant of these customizations, with their uses and intentions, are described below. This discussion assumes some familiarity with the TEI; those who have not worked with text encoding may find David Birnbaum’s excellent “What is XML and why should humanists care? An even gentler introduction to XML” helpful.


This attribute is used to record the labels of texts and sections of texts as given in the texts themselves. It works along with @type, which has a more standardized list of values. This combination allows @type values for <div> and <text> that are generalizable, while also recording the particular terms that texts use to describe themselves. For example, a collection of poems might be labeled “certain verses” by the text itself; this specificity can be recorded with @localType, while the division is also labeled with the general @type of “poemGroup”.

Sample encoding: @localType


This element is designed to record the labels writers apply to the texts and textual materials that they discuss (by contrast with @localType, which records internal textual identifications). The range and density of <textKind>s that are used to describe historical materials demonstrate early modern writers’ interest in historiographical taxonomy and investment in discussing the boundaries of the discipline. Some <textKind>s make claims about the truth-value of the work they describe, some are focused on form, and some on content—many can be very flexible.

The name of the element derives from the ways that early modern texts were taxonomized, by “kind” or “sort”. For example, Edward Leigh’s Foelix Consortium asserts that:

Just or perfect History is of three kindes, according to the nature of the object which it propounds to represent; for it either represents some portion of time, or some memorable person, or some famous Act. The first we call Chronicles or Annals; the second Lives; the third Relations. (46).

Margaret Cavendish offers a different historiographic taxonomy in the preface to her 1667 Life of William Cavendish:

Although there be many sorts of histories, yet these three are the chiefest: 1. a General History 2. A National History. 3. Particular History. (n. pag.)

The terms that early modern writers used to label their sources and materials often shaped their disciplinary claims, as in the example below, in which John Clapham’s 1606 Historie of Great Britannie distinguishes the “poeticall fictions” and “feigned legends” that have contaminated Arthurian traditions from “Historie,” which, he says “ought to be a Register of things, either truely done, or at least, warrantable by probabilitie” (200). This example also shows how, by using <persName> and <rs> with @ref, the individual persons mentioned in the text can linked to a personography and associated with this historical narrative and all the markup applied to it.

Example encoding from John Clapham’s Historie of Great Britannie

Below are some sample <textKinds>, all from James Ware’s 1633 collection of Irish histories, Two Histories of Ireland.

  • idle fantasies
  • blinde legends
  • heedlesse and uncertaine tales
  • senseless fable
  • forgery
  • old Wives fables
  • lies
  • fabulous conceits
  • blinde legends
  • collections
  • approoved Chronicles
  • authenticke manuscript Legend
  • true history
  • Story
  • ancient Annals
  • Antiquities
  • Irish account
  • fabulous traditions
  • fable
  • proofes

As the list above demonstrates, historical materials were often—though not always—characterized on the basis of their truth-value. There is also, however, a large amount of variation in use of these terms, even within the same works. For example, Meredith Hanmer’s Chronicle in the collection above describes one source as “the authenticke manuscript Legend of Ireland” while elsewhere reporting that it will leave the “fabulous circumstances of the Legend” that three Irish bishops “keepe together in the dust of the earth, waiting for the resurrection at the last day” to “old Wives and long winters nights” (55).

<pastNarr> and @context

<pastNarr> is a general-purpose element for tagging individual episodes or narratives about the past. For example, this might include the story of Merlin using magic to steal Stonehenge from Ireland and placing the stones on Salisbury Plain, or the account of Brutus’s settlement of Britain, or the tradition in which two Irish saints collaborated to resurrect a prince after his father the king rashly executed the youth for stealing a nun’s cow. <pastNarr> can nest recursively, so, for example, the broadly-defined Brutus narrative might contain individual <pastNarr>s describing his wanderings at sea, his arrival in Britain, his battles with giants, his founding of London, and his deathbed division of the island between his three sons. Because these narratives seldom map neatly onto texts’ overall structural divisions, it is necessary to use a specific element to track them.

I have been using @type with <pastNarr> to record the major traditions to which these narratives belong: Arthurian, Fenian, Milesian, Trojan, and so on. At the moment, this is an open list, but I will be using the values I collect through encoding to create a controlled vocabulary in the future.

The @context attribute records the various ways that these narratives are contextualized in text. Current values are:

  • synthesized—for narratives that are constructed out of multiple historical traditions or theories of the past
  • defended—for narratives that are explicitly defended as historical or factual
  • discredited—for narratives that are debunked in detail
  • dismissed—for narratives that are simply dismissed as not worth including in the history
  • disclaimed—for narratives that are first disclaimed as unhistorical and then presented, often in some detail, without further comment
  • skeptical—for narratives that are presented with remarks on their implausibility throughout but are not explicitly condemned as non-historical
  • unremarked—for narratives that are presented without any comment on their plausibility

A “discredited” past narrative is evident when John Speed asserts in his 1611 Historie of Great Britaine that he cannot “with silence” pass over the claims that Merlin was responsible for bringing Stonehenge out of Ireland; Speed goes on to argue that the claims about Merlin’s powers and parentage are incompatible both with each other and with Christian doctrine (315). I am distinguishing this kind of detailed discussion about why certain past narratives are not “warrantable by probabilitie” from the briefer cases in which narratives are “dismissed” and writers simply mention that they will not be including them. The term “discredited” reflects a common phrasing for asserting the credit—or lack thereof—available to particular historical traditions.

A Discredited Past Narrative from John Speed’s Historie of Great Britaine

One other value for @context might benefit from some additional explanation: “synthesized.” In some cases, writers will construct past narratives out of several different, usually competing, traditions. For example, Daniel Langhorne’s 1676 Introduction to the History of England presents an account of Britain’s settlement in which the Brutus legend is shown to be fully compatible both with other traditional origin accounts and with the theory that Britain was settled from Gaul, which was often set up as the more plausible explanation for how the island came to be peopled. Langhorne argues that these origin accounts are compatible and that the Brutus tradition is as supported by “learned” scholarship as the Gaulish theory. Langhorne’s decision to combine the various settlement traditions thus enables him to narrate the origins of Britain with some confidence and to argue in favor of the Brutus account, which offered a powerful validation for the authority of the English crown.

Interpretation and Analysis

In addition to these customizations, Making Room in History also employs the TEI’s mechanisms for offering interpretation and analysis (<interp> and @ana). When combined with @context, this encoding can provide information on a broad range of rhetorical moves, political engagements, and disciplinary theorizations. This encoding support very precise analysis because @ana can be applied to entire divisions, segments of text, or individual words and phrases.

The interpretive categories used by the project will be refined as encoding continues. They can currently be broken into three broad categories.

Marking Disciplinary Claims

  • knowable—assertions that ancient history can be determined with some degree of certainty
  • unknowable—assertions that ancient history is permanently lost
  • discTheory—theorizations of history as a discipline
  • internationality—international contextualization of past events or historical materials

Marking Sovereignty and Empire

  • internal—positioning as internal to the material reported
  • external—positioning as external to the material reported
  • sovereignty—materials pertaining to sovereignty and kingship
  • anticolonial—materials resisting colonial claims or imperial authority
  • colonial—materials supporting colonial claims or imperial authority
  • degeneration—reference to degeneration

Marking Interdisciplinarity

  • citation—explicit invocation of written sources to support textual claims
  • demyth—excisions of improbable materials from past narratives
  • archaeology—references to archaeological discoveries or practices
  • histFic—positioning of history and fiction or poetry as complementary or as productively combined
  • mixture—references to mixtures, minglings, or sprinklings in texts, languages, or populations

The quotation from Richard Cox that inspired the title of this project serves as an effective example of how tightly clustered these features can be. In this textual segment, which continues beyond what is quoted here, Cox considers the sovereignty of the kingdoms of England and Ireland, deploys a colonial claim about the re-conquest of Ireland, considers history as a phenomenon that occurs on an international level, offers his own explanation of how history should be recorded, and positions himself as a historian working externally to the Irish chronicle tradition.

Encoding Interpretation and Analysis in Richard Cox’s Hibernia Anglicana

An advantage to using the TEI to record this information is that the hierarchies and relationships of various textual phenomena are built into the markup, supporting advanced analysis and information retrieval. For example, using just the encoding described above, one might:

  • Locate instances where Merlin is included in a demythologized past narrative
  • Identify the textual labels that appear in past narratives that are defended, synthesized, debunked; or that appear in segments of text that are colonial, anticolonial, internal, external &c.
  • Look for citations of George Buchanan in texts published before 1691 and ask: how are the sections of text in which these citations appear characterized?

Other Possibilities

I am currently exploring other useful ways that these early texts might be encoded. For example, I am working to link individual <textKind>s with the past narratives they are used to describe in order to make narrative characterizations more explicit in the markup. I have also been doing some experimental encoding with an element I call <interText>, which I am using to point forward to texts that I recognize as responding to particular sections in the texts I am reading. For example, Meredith Hanmer’s Chronicle reports on the “Battle of Ventry” (in Irish, Cath Fionntrágha):

Encoding Intertextuality in Hanmer’s Chronicle

In reading this section of Hanmer’s text, I recognized that it would later be discussed in some detail by Geoffrey Keating in his own Irish history. Keating criticizes Hanmer for including this narrative when it is clear that Ireland’s historians do not regard this tale as “stáire fírinnighe” (“true history”) but assert that it is “finnsceul filidheachta” (“poetic legend”) (1: 50-51). Keating then accuses the Welsh historian of misrepresenting Ireland’s historical records by inserting this less-than-plausible tale as if it were characteristic of Irish history when Cath Fionntrágha’s legendary status is well recognized in Ireland.

Such encoding is clearly only possible when the encoder recognizes these relationships between texts; it could not be used to draw conclusions about overall patterns of citation. However, when the project is published, this encoding could help readers to see how texts engaged in ongoing discussions about true history and poetic legend, spanning centuries and across the Irish Sea.