Introduction to Historical Network Analysis with Gephi (2021)

I have designed this module to introduce you to historical network analysis using Gephi. The readings will present some of the general frameworks and theories of social network analysis and historical network analysis, but, I would like to emphasize that 1) they are not comprehensive and 2) they tend to emphasize early modern European networks, which is where my research interests tend to be focused. The Gephi section will provide a working knowledge of Gephi, a popular and (relatively) easy-to-use network analysis program. There are a number of tutorials on the internet, so instead of re-creating the wheel, I am assigning a few of these tutorials.

By the end of this module, you will

  1. Have a general knowledge of the basic theories of Social Network Analysis (SNA).
  2. Understand the limits and opportunities for using network analysis in historical contexts.
  3. Have a working knowledge of Gephi and its feature set.

For the Readings section, I would recommend approaching it in the order listed. They will give you a taste of the complexities of network analysis in history. In the Application section, you will need to complete tasks in the order listed.



Marin, Alexandra, and Barry Wellman. “Social Network Analysis: An Introduction.” In The SAGE Handbook of Social Network Analysis, edited by Peter J. Carrington and Scott John. London: Sage, 2014.

Travers, Jeffrey, and Stanley Milgram. “An Experimental Study of the Small World Problem.” Sociometry 32, no. 4 (1969): 425–43.

Granovetter, Mark S. “The Strength of Weak Ties.” American Journal of Sociology 78, no. 6 (1973): 1360–80.

Burt, Ronald S. Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition. Harvard University Press, 2009.

Borgatti, Stephen P., and Daniel S. Halgin. “On Network Theory.” Organization Science 22, no. 5 (2011): 1168–81.

Lomi, Alessandro, Garry Robins, and Mark Tranmer. “Introduction to Multilevel Social Networks.” Social Networks 44 (2016): 266–68.


Graham, Shawn, Ian Milligan, Scott Weingart. “Networks in Historical Research,” The Historian’s Macroscope, Open Draft Version, Autumn 2013.

Graham, Shawn, Ian Milligan, Scott Weingart. “When Not to Use Networks,” The Historian’s Macroscope, Open Draft Version, Autumn 2013.

Wetherell, Charles. “Historical Social Network Analysis.” International Review of Social History 43, no. S6 (December 1998): 125–44.

Lemercier, Claire. “Formal Network Methods in History: Why and How?” In Social Networks, Political Institutions, and Rural Societies, 281–310. Brepols, 2015.

Painter, Deryc T., Bryan C. Daniels, and Jürgen Jost. “Network Analysis for the Digital Humanities: Principles, Problems, Extensions.” Isis 110, no. 3 (September 2019): 538–54.

Henstra, Froukje. “The Problem of Small Numbers: Methodological Issues in Social Network Analysis.” In Current Issues in Late Modern English, edited by Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and Wim van der Wurff, 29–70. Peter Lang, 2009.


Innes, Joanna, ed. “Networks in British History.” East Asian Journal of British History, no. 5 (2016): 51–72.

Ahnert, Ruth. “Maps versus Networks.” In News Networks in Early Modern Europe, edited by Joad Raymond and Noah Moxham, 130–57. Leiden: Brill, 2016.

Sairio, Anni. “A Social Network Study of Eighteenth-Century Bluestockings: The Progressive and Preposition Stranding in Their Letters.” Historical Sociolinguistics and Sociohistorical Linguistics, 2008.

———. “Methodological and Practical Aspects of Historical Network Analysis: A Case Study of the Bluestocking Letters.” In The Language of Daily Life in England (1400-1800), edited by Arja Nurmi, Minna Nevala, and Minna Palander-Collin, 107–35. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009.

Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Ingrid. “Letters as a Source for Reconstructing Social Networks.” In Studies in Late Modern English Correspondence: Methodology and Data, edited by Ingrid. Tieken-Boon van Ostade and Marina Dossena, 51–76. Linguistic Insights, vol. 76. Bern: Peter Lang, 2008.

———. “Social Network Theory and Eighteenth-Century English: The Case of Boswell.” In English Historical Linguistics 1994: Papers from the 8th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (8. ICEHL, Edinburgh, 19-23 September 1994), edited by Derek Britton, 327-. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing, 1996.

Warren, Christopher N., Daniel Shore, Jessica Otis, Lawrence Wang, Mike Finegold, and Cosma Shalizi. “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon: A Statistical Method for Reconstructing Large Historical Social Networks.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 10, no. 3 (2016).

Vugt, Ingeborg van. “Using Multi-Layered Networks to Disclose Books in the Republic of Letters.” Journal of Historical Network Research 1, no. 1 (2017): 25–51.



Before I begin playing with a new program, I often like to get an overview of how it works by watching somebody use it on YouTube. Here’s a great video by Professor Jennifer Golbeck that will give you a sense of the Gephi interface as well as some of the features for analysis that are built into the program.


  1. Download Gephi.
  2. Install Gephi.
  3. Download the LesMiserables data set.


  1. Complete the Quick Start tutorial provided by Gephi.
  2. Complete Dr. Martin Grandjean’s “Gephi – Introduction to Network Analysis and Visualization.”
  3. Complete Dr. Paul Oldham’s “Network Visualisation with Gephi.”


While playing with the layouts and the settings within Gephi is a great way to get a feel for their differences, using Gephi in an analytical context requires understanding the algorithms behind the layouts.



Not surprisingly, there are a number of Gephi alternatives. I have included them below if you’re interested in comparing and contrasting them.

If you would like to experiment with some other techniques and programming frameworks for network analysis, I would recommend trying out these tutorials from the Programming Historian: