I just read this blogpost [fr.] by Martin Grandjean on the use of basic quantitative methods to organize data related to networks. Grandjean took as an example a series of Franco-German academic meetings in Davos during the 1920s-1930s, and applied various filters to analyze the data: the participants’ origins, their age etc. The result is a convincing illustration of the way quantitative and statistical tools can bring to the surface evolutions, tendencies, progressions that even an experimented researcher will have difficulties to perceive from the raw material.
There is an obvious connection with some of my research efforts linked to diplomatic or international networks. Let’s take two examples.
First of all, Leo Mechelin and his networks of correspondants. Mechelin was a Finnish national activist at the turn of the century, who entertained an impressive network of correspondants accross Europe, Russia, Finland and the United States. What would quantitative methods of analysis and visualization tell us about these networks?
Second, Great Powers’ diplomatic envoys in the Baltic Sea area during the Interwar period. Here again, extensive networks with regular gathering places (the sea resort in Hanko every summer, etc) and contacts. Again, what would quantitative analysis tell us about their contacts, and the quality of their information? Did they copy each others, for example? From a qualitative hunch I would say yes, but it would be nice to back that up with a quantitative analysis…
Potentially, a good and seldom used tool.