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A survey of historians has found that their relatively slow adoption of new technologies has “as much to do with a lack of resources” as “stereotypical fustiness and fear.”

A lack of financial support, poor training, and limited incentives for doing digital work, were among the reasons listed by faculty to explain why many were wary of trying new technologies.

The survey, published by the American Historical Association, includes responses from some 1,266 historians at four-year colleges across the US. It asked how historians use digital technologies in their research, using many of the same questions as an earlier 2010 survey.  

While almost all historians said they used library-supported databases, online archives or digital cameras, less than one in five said that they used more advanced digital tools such as text-mining or statistical analysis software. Most historians said that they only adopted digital tools when they found there was no other way to resolve an issue in their research.

Though often presumed that older historians are more reluctant to adopt new tools, the survey found little difference in the practices of historians of all ages. One early career responded observed that “even as a relatively young scholar, I find new technologies to be intimidating.” Nearly 60 percent of respondents said that a lack of time was a major barrier to learning how to use new technologies.

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