What is PORTIC?

The program’s goals

PORTIC is a program (2019-2023) financed by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche. It intends to study the spatial and economic dynamics at work in the process of building increasingly integrated markets which prepared and supported the Industrial Revolution. To this end, we cross-check data on shipping in French ports with the balance of trade in order to better understand the 18th century articulation between regional, national and international  French trade. The program is based on two existing corpora  – Navigocorpus and Totlit18 – produced during two already completed ANR programs. The cross-checking of the two corpora allows, among other things, to estimate more precisely the respective share of national and foreign trade, to refine knowledge on the ports which articulated the markets and their interactions, to analyze the regional phenomena of specialization between several ports, to measure the impact of conflicts on a port economy, to take the measure of smuggling across the Channel, to weigh the share taken by the French in international transport services (an element which the trade statistics of at the time do not account for), or to calculate the ratio between the value of trade and the tonnage or manpower allocated to maritime transport in different trade flows. If historians and economists will use these data to advance knowledge on the contribution of international trade and navigation to French 18th century growth, PORTIC will enable everyone to explore the data, starting from this site, which will offer a progressive and guided approach to data, taking into account their “imperfect” nature.

Indeed, PORTIC, a project co-constructed by historians, economists, geomaticians, computer scientists, and specialists in the communication of information via the Web, is developing tools allowing a clear, scientifically flawless and calibrated visualization of historical information for different audiences, taking full account of their so-called “imperfect” nature. The imperfection of historical data derives from documentary gaps, contradictory information provided by different sources, or from their imprecise content. This uncertain nature of part of the information, which is fundamental for our understanding of the past, is currently insufficiently integrated by data visualization tools, in particular as far as flows are concerned. Our aim is to provide a correct access to this knowledge and to raise public awareness of the level of certainty of the information.

Digital humanities accompany all stages of the project. First of all, they allow the outliers and contradictory characteristics of the data to be highlighted by data-mining tools and by the implementation of semi-automated interactive procedures through which historians qualify the value of the information. This aspect, prior to the project, will not be visible on this site. Next, we are in the process of creating a data visualization interface that takes appropriate account of the incomplete or uncertain or imprecise nature of data, to avoid that the consultation of the data may lead to incorrect conclusions. Finally, educational tools and interactive queries will allow different audiences to access data according to their needs. A dedicated section finally allows, through a fun approach, to familiarize the youngest audience with specific historical realities, such as the Mediterranean corso.

All tools developed by PORTIC are under free license.