3 Replies Latest reply on Feb 16, 2012 10:58 AM by philmodjunk

    Relational Database Design for History Research? (showing different titles, positions held etc)



      Relational Database Design for History Research? (showing different titles, positions held etc)



      I'm a PhD researcher in History, working on the disgraced members of the Ottoman ruling classes between 1574-1617. I only look at disgraced officials who served in the Imperial Council and held the top positions in the empire, who came from one of the three sectors in the Ottoman ruling classes: the military-administrative bureaucrats, the learned-judiciary, and the financial bureaucrats. I can think of the following fields: name; titles held (they hold different titles in different years);  the dates of their appointments, dismissals, disgraces, comebacks; education; ethnic origin; number of disgraces they experienced; the types of disgrace they experienced (treason, embezzlement); who accused them with these charges (often other members within my population); the punishments they received (dismissal, exile, confiscation of property, execution); talent. 

      I also want to be able to see how these people's lives changed year-by-year. For example: Koca Sinan Pasha was in exile in 1584, but in 1589 he was appointed grand vizier, in 1591 he was disgraced (because his rival Ferhad Pasha accused him of treason), in 1593 he was reappointed grand vizier, in 1595 he died of natural causes. Ferhad Pasha was appointed grand vizier in 1591 (after bringing Koca Sinan Pasha into disgrace) and in 1593, he himself was disgraced (by Saturcu Mehmed Agha's libellous letter), in 1595 he was reappointed grand vizier, in 1595 again he was disgraced (because of Koca Sinan Pasha's accusation) and two months later Ferhad Pasha was found guilty: he was executed and his property was confiscated.

      These are the types of events I am interested in, and showing the role of people in them. Another complication I have is that I use different types of records to document these events, often narratives taken out of chronicles and histories. For example, I have three chronicles that mention Koca Sinan Pasha's disgrace in 1591 and an archival document. I also want to have a table whereby I can see Koca Sinan Pasha's DISGRACE 1 which is related to texts produced on different dates. And in these texts, other members of the population are also mentioned (another relation). 

      So far, I've been using non-relational excel sheets, and a chronological entry of texts in word files created for each person. This is very old fashioned research method and makes seeing the bigger picture very difficult. I think creating a database of this kind not only involves database design (about which I know very little) and also probably templates. I guess my database of collective biography focusing on disgrace will be similar to a database of CV's with fields for education, different jobs and job titles, etc. Although would be more complex because of the way the members of the population show up in different CVs.

      Do you think a non-professional and inexperienced researcher can realistically use File Maker Pro for this project?

      Do you think File-Maker pro is the right database program for such a project?

      How can I learn more about showing change in one person's life (relating appointments, dismissals, deaths to time)?

      For example, how can I show different titles and positions held in different years?

      Is there any specific text I can read that will help me create these relations in a database and show changes chronologically in one person's life, or changes in the list of the members of the Imperial Council by years? 

      How long the building of such a database last?

      Best wishes,

      Elif Ozgen

        • 1. Re: Relational Database Design for History Research? (showing different titles, positions held etc)

          Last question first: a lifetime. You will always find something new to add to a personal database. 

          Every 'professional' once stood in your shoes not knowing anything, some still don't.  :)

          Filemaker Pro is right because it is easy to use. Easy to learn, hard to master, as they say about Texas Holdem.

          What you would do is import your data from Excel into Filemaker and then look at it to see if it is OK.

          Now you can begin to look for things to 'relate' to other things and use importing into a new table to split the long records into subsets, etc.

          A day or two to get a handle on things and you're on your way.

          • 2. Re: Relational Database Design for History Research? (showing different titles, positions held etc)

            Thank you Jack for your response and suggestions. I edited my excel chart and converted into a File Maker Pro, and calculated the number of days in office. Even without any modeling or creating relations, it is still better than excel, as the lay out #1 is better for working on textual data and dates then little excel boxes in a grid. I have now a single table file, because I only had the time to convert the Grand Viziers chart. 

            I also got some advice about working out the naming protocols for my fields, which will help me a lot. I know it takes a lifetime to expand a database, it is partly the reason I used the old fashioned methods so far. I want to write a dissertation, not just build a database. But I think buildilng the database will make easier making observations and seeing the greater picture for my first chapter where I will discuss patterns of disgrace. On the other hand, I realize the value of File Maker Pro, with the Container fields, time calculations, etc. It will be worthwhile to get the hang of it!

            If I can pose a more specific question, I have both dates and reigns (two different indication of the time period) Would it be possible to define the reign ranges in the date fields and somehow get rid of the 'sultans' field in my current converted chart?

            • 3. Re: Relational Database Design for History Research? (showing different titles, positions held etc)

              Now that you have left spreadsheets behind, you have new optiosn for structuring your data. I'd add a table just for Sultans listing the needed fields for describing that sultan. You can then link the above table by a SultanID and can then eliminate any columns shown above that list data specific to a particular sultan. You can still access that information by including fields from the Sultan table on your layout, but now you only need enter that data once.

              Your Sultan table might have these fields to start:

              __pk_SultanID   (define as an auto-entered serial number)
              SultanName (text)

              and so forth

              In your existing table, you'd add a _fk_SultanID field as a number field and you'd link records in this table to a specific sultan by entering a SultanID value in this field.

              It's possible to load your Sultan table with an import records importing your data from this same spreadsheet file. If you go to the SultanName field in Manage | Database | Fields and open field options, you can specify "unique values" ; "validate always" on the validation tab and then the import will only expect one Entry for Each Sultan name in this new table.