Stanford University

Courses and Workshops


Networks: Ecological, Revolutionary, Digital
Dan Edelstein (French and Italian) and Deborah Gordon (Biology)
Teaching fellows: Melanie Conroy, Elizabeth Coggeshall and Nicole Martinez-Martin

Why is the word network used to describe the behavior of computers, ants, and people? Do all these networks share certain properties, and what might we learn by comparing them? We like to think of social networks as a contemporary phenomenon. But before Facebook, individuals organized themselves in social networks; before Twitter, revolutionaries used media to communicate and coordinate their messages. In fact, even animal societies are networked. Through project-based exercises, you will learn to study, analyze, and write about networks from the perspectives of a biologist, a computer scientist, and a historian. We will retrace social networks in the 18th and 21st centuries, observe the organization of animal networks, and investigate the structure of online networks. Our goal is to use the concept of the network to deepen our understanding of the natural world, historical change, and our own social lives.

The Enlightenment project asks students to use the concepts of network theory to analyze key individuals and key moments in intellectual history. After choosing a major intellectual figure of the Scientific Revolution or Enlightenment (17th or 18th centuries), students determine the different networks in which that intellectual took part. In this way, we seek to understand which networks were important to making certain individuals – but also certain intellectual movements – successful, as well as to understand how these different movements depended on different networks.

List of the intellectual figures whose networks the students are mapping:
John Adams, Robert Boyle, Nicolaus Copernicus, René Descartes, Denis Diderot, Benjamin Franklin, Galileo Galilei, Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Jefferson, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, John Locke, James Madison, Montesquieu, Isaac Newton, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Voltaire, George Washington.

The students used Shuffle, a faceted list viewer based on Elastic Lists developed at Stanford's Humanities+Design Lab, to explore data they collected about Enlightenment networks. See a demo to explore Voltaire's correspondence network.


Republic Of Letters: Knowledge And Community, 1300-1800
Paula Findlen And Robert Fredona

How did a "republic of letters" emerge in the Renaissance and undergo multiple transformations during the Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment? How did knowledge, communication, and community change between the age of Renaissance humanists such as Petrarch, Machiavelli, and Erasmus, the invention of printing, the political, religious and intellectual upheavals of the seventeenth century, and the trans-Atlantic, cosmopolitan world of salons, libraries, and enlightened philosophers such as Voltaire, Gibbon, and Franklin?


Modern Journeys in Ancient Lands: Building a Spatial History of the Grand Tour
Giovanna Ceserani
Sarah Murray
Touring the ancient sites of Italy was an educational rite of passage for 18th-century British elites. Where did Grand Tourists travel? How did the places visited and people encountered affect them, and shape our own vision of the ancient world? Analysis of the literary, geographic, and ideological landscapes of the Grand Tour through focus on primary sources (archival and published) and modern geoanalytical tools (from Google Earth to GIS) to create dynamic visualizations reflecting current theoretical and historical approaches.