Regional economic development in a qualitative-quantitative dual perspective – the annual reports of German chambers of commerce of the long 19th century in open access

Project object

The high source value of the annual reports of the 173 chambers of commerce in Germany over the long 19th century is thus far in striking contrast with the limited attention paid to them by researchers. This is probably due above all to the confusing situation regarding the availability of the chamber of commerce reports submitted to the responsible ministries of the German states from the 1830s onwards. Since they were published outside the book trade, these reports were usually collected only at local or regional level by archives and libraries. Especially against the background of their fragmented situation in terms of preservation, the improvement of the visibility and availability of the historical chamber of commerce reports seems urgently needed. This is all the more so, as this source genre, which became increasingly standardised after 1871, is suitable as a basis for both qualitative and quantitative study designs in the fields of economic, social and business history, as well as for the application of mixed methods approaches of the digital humanities, due to its characteristic two-part structure – the verbal description of the regional economic situation is followed by a statistical appendix with data on the development of industry, trade, commerce and employment.

In order to lay the foundation for such research perspectives, the project aims on the one hand to digitise and make permanently openly accessible the outstanding collection of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (SBB) of annual reports of German chambers of commerce up to the reporting year 1918. The special quality of this collection is reflected in the coverage of around 80% of the total corpus of this type of text in the German union catalogue of serials. In order to close the gaps in its collection the SBB intends to make a fund available to researchers from its own resources even beyond the actual project period, from which missing volumes of chamber of commerce reports can be digitised on demand from the holdings of other libraries.

Besides its core objective, this project also aims to lay the foundation for a follow-up project, which will focus on the development of OCR procedures for sentiment detection and automatic table extraction on the basis of the digitised chamber of commerce reports.

Project term

Nov 2023 - Oct 2026

Project participant(s)

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Mark Spoerer (Universität Regensburg)


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation)


Dr. Christian Mathieu
Benutzungsabteilung / Wissenschaftliche Dienste
Tel.: +49 30 266 433 240

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