The DRH is designed to serve as a centralized clearinghouse for scholarly knowledge of the historical record, bringing together a core of quantified, standardized data with qualitative comments, references to crucial resources, and links to on-line text and image databases.
The pace of scholarly production concerning the religious historical record has increased rapidly over the past decades, making it difficult for scholars maintain a comprehensive overview of new monographs, journals and on-line resources. The DRH aims to respond to the problem of information overload by creating a core of standardized, searchable, visualizable knowledge surrounded by rich qualitative comments, references and links to otherwise scattered and hard to find on-line repositories of texts and images.
For scholars, researchers, teachers and the general public, the DRH will function as a gateway to reliable, comprehensive knowledge concerning the history of religions around the world, and cultural history more generally.
Unlike Wikipedia, entries in the DRH will be authored only by academic scholars, ensuring that the task of converting thick, qualitative knowledge into quantitative knowledge, and the directing of users to qualitative resources, is performed by those best qualified to do so. Powerful, built-in analytic and data visualization tools will allow this knowledge to be accessed in entirely new and intuitive ways, with a host of research and pedagogical applications. For those interested in analyzing quantitatively the relationship between religion and other historical variables, the DRH will provide the gold-standard of expert-sourced data. Although we are currently focusing on religious groups, future polls will expand the scope of the DRH to include political, economic, technological and ecological variables.
Scholars can quickly and efficiently check their intuitions concerning the temporal or spatial distribution of particular beliefs or practices against the historical record.
Among other things, the DRH will allow scholars to quickly and efficiently check their intuitions concerning the temporal or spatial distribution of particular beliefs or practices against the historical record, objectively assess the validity of scholarly constructs such as “shamanism” or “Confucianism,” and produce thought-provoking visualizations of the spread or interactions of religious variables for both teaching and research purposes. These are only some of the potential uses to which the DRH can be put; as its number of users grows, we hope that the DRH will come to be used in all sorts of novel, completely unanticipated ways.
For the broader historical community, the DRH will function as a venue for documenting differences in scholarly opinion, as well as providing a discussion forum for exploring the sources of expert disagreement.
We encourage contributors to note in their comments points where scholarly disagreement exists. The DRH is also unique in not forcing a single consensus document on any given entry: it is designed so that alternative answers to the same questions coexist side-by-side in the database, providing an instant snapshot of the state of scholarly agreement on particular topics. Our new “challenge” feature allows experts to disagree with any given answer discovered while browsing by providing an alternative answer. The flexible architecture of the DRH will also allow scholars to organize and share their own archives of texts or images, making them easily accessible to the larger scholarly community.
The DRH is one of the flagship initiatives of the Cultural Evolution of Religion Research Consortium (CERC), based at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, but involving Partner Institutions and collaborators from all over the world. It is intended as a platform for unprecedented academic collaboration, reflecting a commitment to rigorous, scholarly standards and a deep appreciation for interdisciplinary work in the sciences and humanities. We welcome you to explore the DRH and, above all, become part of our contributing scholarly community.