Tidy data refers to a method of a set of data that is in form of a data matrix. In class, we built a table of data based on George Washington’s List of Enslaved People 1799. We had names of people in the rows and different variables in columns, such as age, sex, marriage status: yes or no, spouse, children, number of children, trade, is able to labor: yes or no, enslaver: Dower or GW, “employed” location.
From my experience with building a tidy data, I think tidy data makes data easier to read for historian because it provides a table of data with clean sorted information rather pages of reading, so that increase efficiency of answering historical questions.
In addition, when I was looking at the primacy source of George Washington’s List of Enslaved People 1799, some handwriting was very hard for me to read because the document was old and I was not familiar with reading this type of handwriting. Luckily, there was a transcript version of the original data, it was way easier to read and helped me a lot to build the data table. If I only use the original source, I might get different results from other people. Therefore, I think the form of data received by others is very important because it changes the final result.
From the tidy data we built in class, I can ask questions like what is the average age of enslaved in 1799, or what is the percentage of male and female of enslaved people in 1799. As a result, I think tidy data enables me to ask question in a border perspective. Moreover, I think tidy data is very useful and helpful to study history, I will definitely use tidy data to extract information when I interact with contemporary data in the future.