“Spatial History, Frontiers, and Migration” embraces the alternative geographical imaginaries that historical subjects conjured up through their movements, the concomitant circulation of animals, goods, texts, and ideas, and the entanglements that these produced. At its core, it reflects a desire to write against the sealed containers of historical analysis – nations, civilizations, empires, etc. – that characterized older traditions of national and even world history.
Many historians working in this field are principally interested in mobilities; however, rather than take nation-states as forming the matrices along which movement took place, they are invested in the new spatial and temporal horizons that mobilities generated. Such historians are committed to studying mobile people in the arenas that they inhabited, whether on land or at sea. They are interested in the study of borderlands, of oceanic worlds, of routes, and of crossings – and all at varying scales, ranging from the micro to the global.
Many of the scholars concerned with questions of space and movement have taken to GIS as a platform for organizing and visualizing data. By enhancing scholars’ ability to examine spatial data, GIS has allowed historians to answer old questions in new ways, but also to pose altogether new questions. Historians using these tools have worked with different units at UVA, including the Scholars’ Lab, and have also developed their own mapping tools, such as MapScholar.