Final Mapping Project

For my final digital humanities project, I chose to use ArcGis to further research and examine comedic troupes during the 1580s.  Throughout this semester, we have spent a lot of time focusing on Richard Tarlton.  We have studied his jests, his lifestyle, the time period surrounding his life and the troupe he worked with, the Queens Men.  I have learnt an incredible amount of information regarding the 1580s, all of which has been fascinating.  My research has even gone into more detail through the Tarlton Project where I learnt that Tarlton was also a play writer.  My particular favorite unit during this course was the mapping section.  Although I did not very much enjoy working with the Map of Early Modern London because I found it confusing and too detailed, I did enjoy ArcGis.  I appreciated being able to visualize where Tarlton and his fellow comedians may have toured and how they would have gotten to their performances.  It was almost like a puzzle.  For that reason, I chose to work once again with ArcGis for my final project.  Except this time, I researched other comedic troupes working in that decade.  Although they are lesser known, these troupes went to many of the same locations the Queens Men did and must have inevitably been influenced by them.  I was eager to learn more about these other troupes and their similarities and differences.  I am particularly interested in where these British troupes overlapped and what can be said from these common performance locations.

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Plot points of all the performance locations.

In order to answer my research question, I started with narrowing down the troupes.  I only wanted to focus on the most relevant troupes of that time so I dwindled the list down to seven.  The troupes I was left with were the Earl of Essex’s Players, Earl of Leicester’s Players, Earl of Oxford’s Players, Earl of Sussex’s Players, Lord Admiral’s Players, Lord Berkeley’s Players, and Lord Stafford’s Players.  Next, I focused on the locations each troupe went to.  Again, there were too many for me to focus on so I chose the locations that had at least eight performance dates by my troupes.  These locations were York, Norwich, Coventry, Gloucester, Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Dover, Faversham, Canterbury, Ludlow and Hythe.  In order to visualize these destinations I used plot points that were categorized in color by the different troupes.  Once I was able to envision the lay out of the main performance locations I was curious about which location was the most popular.  I went about learning this information through the heat map feature on ArcGis.  This feature allowed me to use all the different layers of the troupes to see which areas were the most “hot”.  I found that Coventry was the most popular with thirty performance dates throughout the decade by these troupes.

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York routes connected to Coventry.

The next step of my project was oriented around the pathways of these troupes and how they overlap.  I started this section of my research with two different troupes that had similar performance locations, the Earl of Sussex Players and the Lord Admiral’s Players.  These troupes went to York, Norwich, Coventry, Gloucester, Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Dover, Hythe and Canterbury.  Because these troupes had such similar performance locations I hypothesized that they would also take the same routes and maybe have the same order for their performances. I proceeded in mapping out both of their routes through each performance using the date category.  I found that their paths overlapped frequently but I did not see a lot of commonalities with the order of their performances.  One that stuck out, however, was York and Coventry.  Basically all the performances surrounding York were preceded by or followed by a performance in Coventry.  Yet, this occurrence could easily be a coincidence.  In order to see if this could be more than a coincidence I added another layer of routes.

This next layer included the Lord Stafford’s Players.  These players also had similar destinations so I thought it fit well into my hypothesis.  The routes that I created also overlapped with Sussex Players and Admiral Players.  However, most excitingly there were more Coventry to York or vice versa trips.  This meant that this connection could be more than a coincidence.  I continued my research and found that another troupe, the Earl of Essex Players, also had the same line up for performances.  This pattern is most likely a result of mere convenience. York is the farthest north location that any of the troupes go to.  Therefore, when they make this trek they must plan ahead so they lose as little time as possible.  Coventry is the most central location and also the shortest away from York so it makes sense why many of the troupes put these two performances together.  Finding this pattern was extremely exciting for me.  Even though it may be miniscule in terms of the whole project, finding one occurrence that I could explain was satisfying to say the least.

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The strict pattern of performances by Berkeley Players

In order to finish the project, I thought it necessary and interesting to map out each route for each troupe.  Although this was tedious, I had a better understanding of how each troupe moved.  For example, Lord Berkeley’s Players had a fairly strict order of performances.  They went to Bath to Gloucester to Coventry pretty sequentially while only veering off course twice.  Mapping out all the routes also produced an esthetically pleasing map.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with ArcGis. Edward Whitley sums up my feelings towards the program quite poetically whilst he is discussing digital mediums.  He raves how digital mediums are “rich archives of electronic texts [that] can offer a ‘wide-angle perspective’ on a large body of material, material that is then searchable in ways that allow for the ‘serendipitous discovery’ of new knowledge” (185,186, Whitley).  Serendipitous discovery has been so relevant throughout my final project.  A lot of my major questions arose from using the program more frequently.  The more I delved into the project, the more questions I had.  By completing this project, I feel like I have added to the digital humanities world.  In Humphrey Southall’s words I am making the “world’s archives searchable by geography” (105, Southall) which is quite a feat.




“The Agas Map of Early Modern London.” The Agas Map. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

“About the Tarlton Project.” The Tarlton Project. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Hagge, Patrick D. “Toward Spatial Humanities: Historical GIS & Spatial History.” Social & Cultural Geography (2015): 1-2. Web.

Kilner, K. “The American Literature Scholar in the Digital Age * Amy E. Earhart, Andrew Jewell (eds).” Literary and Linguistic Computing 27.1 (2011): 109-11. Web.