IT and the Historian: Week 6: Drawing graphs in Microsoft Excel

The first thing you should do is to save this lesson as a Bookmark. Then you can always go back to it easily. You can always print it out at any UCS printer station. Today's exercise is based on the product of last week's lesson. You should have constructed a Table of London burials in Word for Windows. If you did not finish that lesson, you will have to do so now.



How to import Word Tables into Excel

How to draw graphs in Excel

Further Reading

Some useful UCS guides

A Short introduction to history and statistics

But, I am frightened of numbers, I have a phobia about them, I always ignore graphs and tables, I have had a sheltered childhood, education etc.. Take them away! Take them away!.. Why should historians care about numbers? The collection of statistical material to answer important questions has a long history. Since at least the sixteenth century in Europe governments, town and church authorities have collected statistical information on such things as manpower, church attendance (ie. attendance at Holy Communion)and wealth. Since the late seventeenth century political scientists (those interested in political arithmetic) like William Petty, used contemporary taxation data to make numerical estimates of the wealth of the nation, the size of its available manpower and its taxable capacity. One of his publications was therefore A Treatise of Taxes and Contributions. Another contemporary of Petty's, Gregory King, famously made the first ever calculation of the Gross National Product of England in 1688. Statistical understanding, and numeracy generally, increased rapidly in the eighteenth century. By the end of the eighteenth century Thomas Malthus produced his classic An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798, which set out his influential views on the nature and causes of population growth, based partly on the empirical use of population data.

Since the Second World War statistical material has formed the backbone of attempts to uncover the social and economic history of those normally ignored in the traditional historical record. Political, economic and social historians have used statistical data and increasingly sophisticated statistical techniques to make important revisions to the way in which historians understand such topics as voting behaviour, the movement of living standards, economic growth and agricultural history.

In particular, the pioneering Cambridge historians Peter Laslett and Tony Wrigley at the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, used advanced statistical techniques and a new quantitative approach to make important advances in our understanding of population history and its dynamics. Using parish registers they and their colleagues provided new and important data on such questions as population size, household structure, age at marriage, incidence of bastardy, rate of bridal pregnancy, the fertility of marriages and on infant and child mortality. The monumental work by Tony Wrigley and his colleague Roger Schofield, The Population History of England, 1541-1871, published in 1981, totally revised the then current knowledge and understanding of that most fundamental of all history, population history.

Since the 1970s, too, historians have been attempting to use statistical data to uncover what is sometimes (misleadingly) referred to as the Total History of village communities. In particular the historian and anthropologist Alan Macfarlane, and the historians Keith Wrightson and David Levine, have written path-breaking accounts of the humble villagers in early modern England, using, wherever possible, tabular and statistical material to enable comparisons with communities in other time periods and places. The distribution of wealth, kinship densities, and participation in village offices have all been studies in this way. There is now an abundance of this 'new' social history,investigating periods as remote as medieval England to the twentieth century, of the humble and the poor. Such studies use statistical data (albeit often married to traditional documentary evidence) to investigate topics as far-ranging as criminal activity, migration, poverty, female employment, literacy, land-holding patterns, and even defamation (the besmirching of local reputation by stories and libels).

How to import Word tables into Excel. You should have a table of burials, with two columns. The first column should be headed years, the second burials or some such. To import the table into Excel follow these steps.
  1. Minimise Netscape to the Taskbar.You will need to return to it at intervals.
  2. Open Word for Windows. It might already by on your desktop, if not, find it in Start Programs from the Taskbar.
  3. Open the document containing your table of Bills of Mortality.
  4. In Word click inside your table and then pull down the Table menu and choose Select Table. The whole table should now be selected.
  5. Copy the whole table by pressing CTRL-C or using the COPY button.
  6. Now open Excel. If it is not on the desktop as an icon, select it from Start Programs from the Taskbar
  7. Click in a cell in the new worksheet
  8. Paste in the Table by pressing CTRL-V or using the PASTE button.
  9. You should now see your table pasted into an Excel spreadsheet. You can resize columns by moving your cursor over the grey buttons at the top of each column, when you see a double black arrow, then you can alter the width of the column.
  10. Save your table in Excel and close Word for windows.

How to draw graphs in Excel

To turn your table data into a chart, jump to this brief guide on using Excel 97 to draw charts.. After completing your chart, save the worksheet and close Excel.

The simple assessment this week is for you to print out the chart you draw and hand it to a course leader! Couldn't be easier? Well, it was easy in Excel 5.0. This exercise will make you a stronger, more confident person.' I know it worked for me'.

Some further reading about statistics and history

Laslett, P. (1977 ). Family life and illicit love in earlier generations .

Laslett, P. (Eds.). (1980 ). Bastardy and its comparative History .

Laslett, P. (1983 ). The World we have lost .

Macfarlane, A. (1977 ). Reconstructing Historical Communities .

Wrightson, K., & Levine, D. (1979 ). Poverty and Piety, Terling, 1525-1700 .

Wrightson, K. (1982 ). English Society, 1580-1680 . BUY.

Wrigley, E. A., & Schofield, R. S. (1981). The Population History of England, 1541-1871 . 1989 ppbk with new introduction.

Social history reading list for Honours Course 211: Riot and Rebellion

Some relevant and extremely helpful documents produced by the University Computing Service (UCS).

  1. Main UCS documentation page

  2. Downloadable introduction to Excel