X-Boorman: a digital revival

The X-Boorman platform presents a digital revival of the Biographical Dictionary of Republican China edited by Howard L. Boorman in 1967-1971 (Columbia University Press). The ENP-China project developed this platform initially as a spin off of its experiments. Originally, we initiated this study and exploration of the BDRC as an attempt to implement NLP (natural language processing) tools and methods in historical research.

As a genre, the BDRC was composed by historians and written in natural language (vs. structured text), in the style and prose that we expect to find in other texts produced by historians. Our main purpose was to test retrieving all the historical data in the BDRC and to produce datasets to feed into the Modern China Biographical Database (to be released in February 2021). But these experiments led us to realize that we could bring together our methods and results in a single digital environment.

X-Boorman is an invitation to a new journey. One can look at the data from many angles to discover the rich information the BDRC still has to offer. The two main gateways of X-Boorman are the original biographical texts on the one hand and a graph visualization instrument — Padagraph — on the other hand. Yet, the reader will also find various alternative pathways into this central group of Chinese elites.

On X-Boorman, we make all the resources produced in the course of research available on the site itself or through links to related platforms such as Zenodo, ARCGis online, NEdx, etc.), based on the format of the data (mapping, networks, datasets, etc.).

We are especially grateful to Columbia University Press for allowing us to reproduce the integral text of the biographies and other sections of the Biographical Dictionary of Republican China. It is our hope to give to this major reference work a second life. Stay tune! We plan to enrich X-Boorman with new resources.


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