Spatial Cross-Walk: Electoral Boundaries and Census Data, Germany in Central Europe

Spatial Cross-WalkGerman Historical Electoral Constituency Boundaries [Shapefiles] 1895 within Contemporary Political Borders

Project co-directors:  Konstantin Kashin, Data Scientist, Facebook; Volha Charnysh, Harvard University; Daniel Ziblatt, Harvard University

Do partisan allegiances pass from generation to generation? Is it possible to trace lineages of voting across centuries despite the disruptions of war and revolution? Two major challenges for historically-oriented analysis of elections over long periods of time is a) the absence of continuous over-time units (i.e. the boundaries of election constituencies change over time), and b) the difficulty of matching demographic data from census sources and election returns. Beginning in 2011, Politics Through Time has begun to build what we have called a “spatial cross-walk,” which creates continuous electoral boundaries between nineteenth century Germany and contemporary Germany, parts of Poland, and parts of Russia. This is a particularly important contribution in the Central European context because of the number of regime changes—and hence, boundary changes--between 1895 and the present. Relying on historical census data from archival sources in Germany, GIS data, and election returns we are creating a unified infrastructure for historical study of Central Europe that will provide a user-friendly interface for researchers interested in providing historical context for contemporary party politics in Germany and the rest of Central Europe.