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Constructing the first municipal-level GIS for France and a multi-modal transport network

Constructing the first municipal-level GIS for France and a multi-modal transport network

Data use

With just over 6,000 boundary changes in two-hundred years reconstructing French historical boundaries is a manageable task, and it will lay the groundwork for many future historical enquiries. Since we launched our pilot project in January 2018, we have been contacted by numerous colleagues working in diverse fields inquiring about our data. In some cases, we were able to supply boundary data specially recreated for their projects:

  • Schwartz (2010) used the French railway database to assess the effect of the railways on the restructuration of agriculture after the agrarian crisis.
  • Henneberg (2013) used the railways GIS data for a comparative study of the role of the railways in the European integration over time.
  • Dehdari and Gehring (2018) use the new information about administrative changes to evaluate the credibility of exploiting a natural historical experiment in the French-German border regions. This was previously impossible, but geo-referencing the changes and linking them to historical census and other data enables them to conduct meaningful estimates at the micro-level. More specifically, they use information on population and population density to evaluate whether the drawing of a border following the Franco-Prussian war was related to demographic factors.
  • Heblich, Redding and Sturm (2019) use the commune population data to derive weights for a consistent definition of the center of Paris before and after the Haussmann reforms in 1860. The rearrangement of arrondissements led to substantial area changes which make it hard to justify area weights to derive a consistent population measure. Breaking population down to Quartiers and Communes is a far more credible way to generate consistent spatial units over time. We use this information to test the external validity of our findings for London which suggest that the rise of transportation technologies that facilitated commuting led downtown areas to depopulate while surrounding areas in commuting distance increase in population.
  • Ryavec (2019) has used our data to develop a case study between France and China for a geohistorical course (Mapping political history over time).
  • Teirlinck and Remigereau (2020) will use our data for their project on the 'Historical Persistence in Right-Wing Voting: Evidence from the Postcolonial Repatriation of French Algerians' to merge census data at the commune level from 1962-1999. Using censuses and electoral data, they estimate the immediate effect (in 1967) of this migration shock on political outcomes at the electoral district level. They also measure the effect of repatriates' settlement on the vote shares of the Front National for both national and local elections from the years 1978 until 2002 using their 1968 settlement patterns at the electoral district level and the municipality level.
  • Fertig and Gohrisch (2020 - Quellen und Forschungen zur Agrargeschichte) used our data to construct maps on French agriculture for a translation of Bernard Derouet, 'Pratiques successorales et rapport à la terre : les sociétés paysannes d'Ancien Régime'. In: Annales. Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations. 44e année, N. 1, 1989. pp. 173-206.
  • Peyronel-Béra (2022 - Unpublished master's thesis under the supervision of Thomas Thévenin and Christophe Mimeur) wrote his dissertation on historical inland waterways in France using our data. The work can be consulted here: [LINK TO THESIS].
  • Gendry (PhD in progress, INSA Lyon) - Les données du projet ANR Communes serviront à alimenter une application cartographique interactive traduisant certaines évolutions morphologiques de la région lyonnaise entre 1950 et 2020. En fournissant les limites administratives des communes du Rhône et des départements alentours à différentes périodes, les données procurées permettront de cartographier différentes informations spatiales à l'échelle communale et d'appréhender leur évolution dans le temps. L'application développée servira d'outil d'aide à l'analyse pour une thèse se questionnant sur les liens entre mutations du travail industriel et transformations de la morphologie urbaine.

Other endorsements:

  • Prof Eric Brian: 'Ce projet servira à tou(te)s les historien(ne)s qui voudront examiner les phénomènes démographiques et économiques de l'époque moderne en étant dès lors en mesure d'en saisir de manière réaliste la dimension spatiale. En son principe, il servira sans doute d'exemple pour d'autres pays ... C'est pourquoi j'appuie sans réserve ce projet, et s'il venait à aboutir, je peux annoncer dès aujourd'hui que je m'y associerais avec enthousiasme : pour ma part ce serait une nouvelle étape dans une recherché conduite depuis 1990, soit près de trente années, et dans la perspective plus longue qu'offre l'histoire des sciences, ce serait l'aboutissement de travaux commencés à Paris vers 1770, soit il y a près de 250 ans !'.