IHR Digital History SeminarQuantifying the Language of British Politics, 1880-1914 Dr. Luke Blaxill: King’s College London Luke.email@example.com 1
The Linguistic Turn and Electoral Politics• Great deal of recent interest in language in electoral politics since the ‘linguistic turn’• The turn has given us a great deal, but its focus on deep readings of specific texts in isolation has often caused historians, especially of language, to be gun-shy of offering broader explanations.• Many historians have called for a ‘reintegration’ of the explanatory ambition of the old social-scientific historical tradition with the new sensitivity to language.But how could such a reintegration occur?
My Proposal: Quantitative language analysis with a CorpusA corpus: a huge bank of text of several million words Computerised Corpus:Candidates’ Speeches from Press SCANNED Millions of words of freely searchable text
My Corpora 1 2East Anglian Speeches 1880-1910. National Speeches 1880-1910. Subdivided per party, per election Subdivided per party, per election (1 million words) (4 million words) What are they used for?To trace the patterns and associations of interesting words ona huge scale.
Corpus-driven Quantification in action: Example One: Ireland, 1880-1900
Corpus-driven Quantification in action: Example Two: Imperialism 1880-1900How can we measure the ‘language of Imperialism’ with a corpus?Proposed solution: try to construct a controlled vocabulary or a ‘taxonomy’ composed of words which reliably correlate to occasions when a speaker is using such language.A five word Taxonomy of Imperialism:• Imperial (and all variants)• Empire• Flag• British (and all variants)• Colony (and all variants)
Corpus-driven Quantification in action: Example Two: Imperialism 1880-1900To ensure the ascriptions of ‘the language of imperialism’are correct, each word is checked in its original context:
Corpus-driven Quantification in action: Example Two: Imperialism 1880-1900
The Case for using Corpus-driven quantification to study Political Languagek
The Case for using Corpus-driven quantification to study Political Language Five Arguments1. Amenability of political (especially electoral) language to analysis by these techniques.2. Difficult to measure quantity by intuition.3. Corpora can help establish typicality better than selected quotations from speech.3. Numerical conclusions easy to verify4. More empirical approach to working can illuminate unexpected patterns otherwise hard to detect
Case Study: The Impact of the 1883-85 Reforms on Rural Political Language1. Was there a major shift in the nature of political appeals in EastAnglia? Were farmers issues and the language of farmingsupplanted by agricultural labourer’s issues?2. Can we attempt to measure the influence of Chamberlains Unauthorised Programme on political language in East Anglia? Was it influential?
The word ‘Land’ in context in 1885 Percentage of total Context of Liberal Mentions of Land (130 total) Score mentionsBenefits of owning land 30 23%Land ownership monopoly 20 15%Attacks on landowners 24 18%Transfer of land simplification/ facilitation 16 12%Evocations of the past 8 6%Compulsory purchase 8 6% Percentage of Context of Conservative Mentions of Land (158 total) Score total mentions Theft/compulsory taking of land 36 23% Transfer of land simplification/ facilitation 27 17% General mocking of Radical land reform 14 9% Good Landlords 13 8% General issues of agriculture and farming 18 11%
Conclusions1. Major break from the past in 1885 in language, not just in electioneering.2. The Agricultural Laborer eclipsed the farmer as the most visible in vocabulary remarkably quickly. This suggests that the perceived interests of the voting base were perhaps the key factor in determining the content of platform speeches.3. Unauthorised Programme had a big impact on electoral language in the countryside.4. Overall: Chamberlain was in a much stronger position after 1885 than Historians have argued, but the biggest group within the electorate who supported him was the agricultural labourer- not who he had thought.
• Note: The following few pages show extras tables and graphs, which aren’t part of the paper but might be referred to in discussions.
Corpus-driven Quantification in action: Gladstone, 1880-1892 EAST ANGLIA NATIONAL SPEAKERS
‘Gladstone’: Top Contexts42% Foreign Policy Weakness General Greatness 20% 17%17% Inferiority to Disraeli8% Good orator 1880 Financial competence Bringer of Peace Superiority to Disraeli 14% 14%16% Disunity Manifesto/Programme 21%11% Disestablishment7% General Gordon7% Financial incompetence 1885 Party unity General Greatness 21% 20%57% Irish Home Rule Irish Home Rule 40% General Greatness 29%11% Liberal Unionists7% Abandoning Land Reform 1886 Party unity 17% Superiority to Chamberlain 13%56% Irish Home Rule Irish Home Rule 39%14% Disunity12% Newcastle Programme 1892 General Greatness 30% Newcastle Programme 12%11% General Greatness
Boroughs versus counties in 1885 East Anglia East Anglia Other Other Lemma Borough County Borough County Radical 96 86 72 99 Class 64 132 56 78 Programme 50 16 37 37 Chamberlain 70 88 60 72 Land Reform 276 374 72 142 Church 220 186 151 180 Education/School/Child 254 248 176 177 Working Man/Class 42 104 50 43 Reform 56 116 67 93 Total 1128 1350 741 921
Education Issue in 1885: top contexts Liberals mentions of School, Child, Education (163 Percentage of total mentions) Score mentionsPoor people priced out of education 34 21%General expressions of support in favourof free education 34 21%Will give dignity to poor/ will help poor 19 12%Improve social mobility of poor 14 9%Reassurance that religious aspect toeducation will be kept 9 6% Conservative mentions of school, Percentage of total Child, Education (146 mentions) Score mentionsWeaken voluntary schools 26 18%Expensive, wasteful 24 16%Highlighting Liberal attack on religiousbasis of education 19 13%Stops people being stakeholders* 13 9%Criticising compulsory and universaleducation 16 11%Poor standard of board Schools 5 3%
Church Disestablishment in 1885: top contexts Context of Liberal Mentions of Church (105 total) Score Percentage of total mentions Proclamations in favour of Disestablishment 37 35% Disestablishment as a route to Religious Equality 17 16% Candidate distancing themselves from Disestablishment 10 10% Attacks on Conservatives for politicising the Church 9 9% Context of Conservative Mentions of Church (111) Score Percentage of total mentionsAttacks on Liberals for tying to weaken/abolish Church 36 32%General vows to protect Church 31 28%Benefits of Church (Education) 5 5%Benefits of Church (Church sponsoredcharities) 11 10%Benefits of Church (Classless, available for allClasses) 10 9%Benefits of Church (Education) 3 3%Benefits of Church (Improvement of character) 3 3%