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Digging into Linked Parliamentary Data


Digging into Linked Parliamentary Data

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banner-just3-buildingsThe IHR is one of the partners on an international project, Digging into Linked Parliamentary Data, to research parliamentary language on an unprecedented scale. We are leading the UK arm of a collaboration with the Netherlands and Canada which will enrich and analyse the parliamentary records of all three countries. The two-year project is funded by the Digging into Data Challenge, which encourages transatlantic teams to use large-scale data analysis to develop new insights into the arts and humanities. We will be working with King’s College, London, the universities of Amsterdam and Toronto, and the History of Parliament Trust.

The nature of the data itself will provide many dimensions for comparison. We will be using Hansard for the UK and Canada, with the data available from 1803 and 1867 respectively; the Dutch data goes back to 1814. This provides three different languages, different types of legislatures, and the very different historical circumstances of the three nations; thematic approches, such as changing attitudes to immigration and left-right political affiliation, should bring out differences and also common threads in three sets of data.

One of the challenges of the project will be to enrich the existing UK and Canadian data to bring it up to the excellent standards already achieved with the Dutch parliamentary record. Once this is done it will allow the project, and future researchers, to interrogate the material in ways previously not possible. For example, because we are adding gender labels to each speaker, it should be possible to ask a simple question like: are women members more likely to be interrupted than their male coutnerparts?

Broadly speaking, types of work on the work on the project are divided between the countries. The linguistics work will be done at Toronto and the technical tools will be developed at Amsterdam. However the project will be using Parliamentary Markup Language, developed at King’s College London for an earlier project in which the IHR was also a partner, and work will be done at King’s and the IHR to enrich the Hansard material that is currently available. Historical case studies will be produced by colleagues at King’s and the History of Parliament but also at Toronto. The project truly is an international collaboration. Read more about Dilipad, and follow our progress, on our project website.

Digging into Linked Parliamentary Data

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Parliamentary papersWe were delighted to hear on 15 January that the IHR, along with the universities of Amsterdam and Toronto, King’s College London and the History of Parliament Trust, has been awarded funding by the international Digging into Data Challenge 2013. ‘Digging into Linked Parliamentary Data’ is one of fourteen projects which, over the next two years, will investigate how computational techniques can be applied to ‘big data’  in the humanities and social sciences.

Parliamentary proceedings reflect our history from centuries ago to the present day. They exist in a common format that has survived the test of time, and reflect any event of significance (through times of war and peace, of economic crisis and prosperity). With carefully curated proceedings becoming available in digital form in many countries, new research opportunities arise to analyse this data, on an unprecedented longitudinal scale, and across different nations, cultures and systems of political representation.

Focusing on the UK, Canada and The Netherlands, this project will deliver a common format for encoding parliamentary proceedings (with an initial focus on 1800–yesterday); a joint dataset covering all three jurisdictions; a workbench with a range of tools for the comparative, longitudinal study of parliamentary data; and substantive case studies focusing on migration, left/right ideological polarization and parliamentary language. We hope that comparative analysis of this kind, and the tools to support it, will inform a new approach to the history of parliamentary communication and discourse, and address new research questions.

A project website will be up and running in the next few weeks, so watch this space for more information!