We begin this week with Laura King’s Family Men: Fatherhood and Masculinity in Britain, 1914-1960. Helen McCarthy and the author discuss a beautifully researched, nuanced and ambitious book (no. 1778, with response here).
Next up is The Jacobean Grand Tour: Early Stuart Travellers in Europe, edited by Edward Chaney and Timothy Wilks. Simon Ditchfield has some reservations, but finds much to enjoy in erudite, generously illustrated and very reasonably priced volume (no. 1777).
Then we turn to Megan L. Bever and Scott A. Suarez’s Historian Behind the History: Conversations with Southern Historians, as Bruce Baker reviews an insightful set of interviews with historians about doing history (no. 1776).
Finally, we have The Oxford Handbook of Environmental History, edited by Andrew C. Isenberg, which Peter Coates praises as an enormously valuable teaching and research resource for the practitioner of environmental history (no. 1775).
We begin this week with The Courtly and Commercial Art of the Wycliffite Bible by Kathleen E. Kennedy. Eyal Poleg and the author discuss a book which is an important part of the ‘rehabilitation movement’ of the Wycliffite Bible (no. 1774, with author’s response here).
Then we turn to T. G. Otte’s July Crisis: The World’s Descent for War, Summer 1914, as Jeff Roquen recommends a thought-provoking study of supreme erudition (no. 1773).
Next up Gerald Power reviews The Shadow of a Year: 1641 in Irish History and Memory by John Gibney alongside TCD’s digital resource, the 1641 Depositions Online (no. 1772, with response here).
Finally we have Selina Todd’s The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010. Sean Ledwith takes on a powerfully written social and political history of contemporary Britain (no. 1771).
First up this week is The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Christianity, as Thomas O’Loughlin and editor John Arnold discuss a new introduction to a vast field of research (no. 1769, with response here).
Then we turn to George Goodwin’s Fatal Rivalry, Flodden 1513: Henry VIII, James IV and the battle for Renaissance Britain. Alexander Hodgkins reviews a valuable addition to the body of literature discussing 16th-century Renaissance kingship and conflict in a British context (no. 1768).
Next up is Manuel Barcia’s West African Warfare in Bahia and Cuba: Soldier Slaves in the Atlantic World 1807-1844. Ulrike Schmieder praises an important contribution to the history of the African Atlantic and the South Atlantic (no. 1767).
Finally Vivienne Larminie recommends The Huguenots by Geoffrey Treasure, a worthy and largely well-informed attempt to explore a worthwhile and topical subject (no. 1766).
First up this week we have Broadcasting Buildings: Architecture on the Wireless, 1927-1945 by Shundana Yusaf, as Laura Carter and the author discuss a playful and scholarly new book (no. 1765, with response here).
Then we turn to Helen Castor’s Joan of Arc: A History. Kieron Creedon recommends a vivid and riveting book which combines a consummate skill for storytelling with the cogent precision of a trial lawyer (no. 1764).
Next up is Demonology and Scholarship in the Counter-Reformation by Jan Machielsen, which Francis Young believes is a book that deserves to be on the reading list of every course on the Counter-Reformation (no. 1763).
Finally we have The Life of R. H. Tawney: Socialism and History by Lawrence Goldman. Adam Timmins reviews the first full biography of the historian and social reformer (no. 1762).
We start this week with a lively discussion between Felipe Fernandez-Armesto and Serge Gruzinski over the latter’s new work of comparative global history The Eagle and the Dragon: Globalization and European Dreams of Conquest in China and America in the Sixteenth Century (no. 1761, with response here).
Next up is Technology and Rural Change in Eastern India, 1830–1980 by Smritikumar Sarkar, and Amelia Bonea recommends a valuable book for anyone with an interest in the history of science and technology (no. 1760).
Then we have Rosa Salzberg’s Ephemeral City: Cheap Print and Urban Culture in Renaissance Venice, which Alexander Wilkinson believes is one of the best and most original works on book history to appear in recent years (no. 1759).
Finally we turn to Newspapers and Newsmakers: The Dublin Nationalist Press in the Mid-Nineteenth Century by Ann Andrews. Patrick Maume praises a useful contribution to the growing body of research on 19th-century Irish print media (no. 1758).
We start this week with Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s by Barbara Keys. Umberto Tulli and the author discuss a book which offers a new interpretation and will pave the way for future historical scholarship (no. 1757, with response here).
Next up is Women, Agency and the Law, 1300-1700, edited by Bronach Kane and Fiona Williamson, and Sparky Booker finds these essays break new ground in the history of women, law and agency in the pre-modern period (no. 1756).
Then we turn to Lawrence Freedman’s Strategy: a History, which Marcel Berni believes belongs with the classics in the field of strategic studies (no. 1755).
Finally James Bowen reviews Victoria County History: Shropshire VI Shrewsbury, edited by William A. Champion and Alan Thacker, a beautifully presented addition to the VCH series, of interest to both local and national historians as well as urban historians (no. 1754).
This week we have a real treat for you, as we focus on Jan Plamper’s exciting new work The History of Emotions: An Introduction. There’s a lengthy review by Rob Boddice (no. 1752, with response here) and then a fascinating interview between Professor Plamper and our very own Jordan Landes (no. 1753).
Then we turn to another German work, and Eliten und Zivile Gesellschaft: Legitimitätskonflikte in Ostmitteleuropa by Helmut Fehr. Steven Jefferson believes this to be an impressive volume of detailed empirical research and careful analysis (no. 1751).
Finally, we have Ryan Gingeras’s Heroin, Organized Crime, and the Making of Modern Turkey, and Egemen Bezci reviews a remarkable contribution that paves the path for further studies on the topic (no. 1750).
We’re delighted to be able to present to you a review of the new BL exhibition on Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy. John Sabapathy reviews a wonderful exhibition which is as much about Magna Carta’s 800 year reception as its immediate 13th-century matrix (no. 1749).
A further treat is a new Daniel Snowman interview, in which he talks to Lady Antonia Fraser about her work as a historian and biographer (no. 1748).
Next we turn to The Memory of the People: Custom and Popular Senses of the Past in Early Modern England by Andy Wood. Brodie Waddell believes that the author has produced a study that proves the centrality of custom and popular memory across more than three centuries (no. 1747).
Finally, Mario Draper recommends The French Army and the First World War by Elizabeth Greenhalgh, on the grounds of the quality of the extensive research, the clarity with which it is delivered and the insightfulness on offer (no. 1746).
The Dilipad project is on one hand exciting because it will allow us to investigate ambitious research questions that our team of historians, social and political scientists, and computational linguists couldn’t address otherwise. But it’s also exciting precisely because it is such an interdisciplinary undertaking, which has the capacity to inspire methodological innovation. For me as a historian, it offers a unique opportunity not just to investigate new scholarly questions, but also to analyse historical texts in a new way.
We must remember that, in History, the familiarity with corpus-driven content analysis and semantic approaches is minimal. Almost all historians of language use purely qualitative approaches (i.e. manual reading) and are unfamiliar even with basic word-counting and concordance techniques. Indeed, the very idea of ‘distant reading’ with computers, and categorising ephemeral and context-sensitive political vocabulary and phrases into analytical groups is massively controversial even for a single specific historical moment, let alone diachronically or transnationally over decades or even generations. The reasons for this situation in History are complex, but can reasonably be summarised as stemming from two major scholarly trends which have emerged in the last four decades. The first is the wide-scale abandonment of quantitative History after its perceived failures in the 1970s, and the migration of economic history away from the humanities. The second is the influence of post-structuralism from the mid-1980s, which encouraged historians of language to focus on close readings, and shift from the macro to the micro, and from the top-down to the bottom-up. Political historians’ ambitions became centred around reconstructions of localised culture rather than ontologies, cliometrics, model making, and broad theories. Unsurprisingly, computerised quantitative text analysis found few, if any, champions in this environment.
In the last five years, the release of a plethora of machine-readable historical texts (among them Hansard) online, as well as the popularity of Google Ngram, have reopened the debate on how and how far text analysis techniques developed in linguistics and the social and political sciences can benefit historical research. The Dilipad project is thus a potentially timely intervention, and presents a genuine opportunity to push the methodological envelope in History.
We aim to publish outputs which will appeal to a mainstream audience of historians who will have little familiarity with our methodologies, rather than to prioritise a narrower digital humanities audience. We will aim to make telling interventions in existing historical debates which could not be made using traditional research methods. With this in mind, we are pursuing a number of exciting topics using our roughly two centuries-worth of Parliamentary data, including the language of gender, imperialism, and democracy. While future blog posts will expand upon all three areas in more detail, I offer a few thoughts below on the first.
The Parliamentary language of gender is a self-evidently interesting line of enquiry during a historic period where the role of women in the political process in Great Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands was entirely transformed. There has been considerable recent historical interest on the impact of women on the language of politics, and female rhetorical culture. The Dilipad project will examine differences in vocabulary between male and female speakers, such as on genre of topics raised, and also discursive elements, hedging, modality, the use of personal pronouns and other discourse markers- especially those which convey assertiveness and emotion. Next to purely textual features we will analyse how the position of women in parliament changed over time and between countries (time they spoke, how frequently they were interrupted, the impact of their discourse on the rest of the debate etc.).
A second area of great interest will be how women were presented and described in debate – both by men and by other women. This line of enquiry might present an opportunity to utilise sentiment analysis (which in itself would be methodologically significant) which might shed light on positive or negative attitudes towards women in the respective political cultures of our three countries. We will analyze tone, and investigate what vocabulary and lexical formations tended to be most associated with women. In addition, we can also investigate whether the portrayal of women varied across political parties.
More broadly, this historical analysis could help shed light on the broader impact of women in Parliamentary rhetorical culture. Was there a discernible ‘feminized language of politics’, and if so, where did it appear, and when? Similarly, was there any difference in Parliamentary behaviour between the sexes, with women contributing disproportionately more to debates on certain topics, and less to others? Finally, can we associate the introduction of new Parliamentary topics or forms of argument to the appearance of women speakers?
Insights in these areas – made possible only by linked ‘big data’ textual analysis – will undoubtedly be of great interest to historians, and will (we hope) demonstrate the practical utility of text mining and semantic methodologies in this field.
We start off this week with another in our occasional interview series, with Daniel Snowman talking to Professor Roy Foster about his recent work on the human dimension behind the Easter Rising, Vivid Faces (no. 1745).
Next we have Thomas Dekker and the Culture of Pamphleteering in Early Modern London by Anna Bayman. Kirsty Rolfe and the author discuss a highly readable study, with important implications for critical understanding of ‘popular print’ and the cultures with which it interacted (no. 1744, with response here).
Then we turn to Crafting the Woman Professional in the Long Nineteenth Century, edited by Kryriaki Hadjiafxendi and Patricia Zakreski, which Zoe Thomas believes will positively contribute to a number of academic fields (no. 1743).
Finally there is David F. Allmendinger Jr.’s Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County, as Vanessa Holden reviews an account of the most famous slave rebellion in American history (no. 1742).