Can We Measure Historiographical Turns?: Revisiting the Question

In October 2012, I wrote a blog post with the title, “Can We Measure Historiographical Turns?”  In it, I picked a series of representative authors and measured their citation rates in three journals: The Journal of British Studies, Albion, and The Historical Journal.  The results were interesting.  So, I though that I would revisit the question with another set of tools.

I have taken the titles of all essays published in the Journal of British Studies between 1969 and 2009.  After normalizing the data (tokenizing, stemming, and running a stop word algorithm with Sci2), I ran a burst detection analysis with Kleinberg’s burst detection algorithm — again, using the Sci2 Tool.  The algorithm does not simply identify how often terms are being used, but it identifies moments when word occurrence is most frequent vis-a-vis other words in the data set.

I output the data into a temporal bar graph, generated in Sci2, revealing bursts in a time series, which suggests changing scholarly interests over time.  The only two bursts that occur in the 1970s and 1980s seem to relate to political history titles (stem words: liber and polit).  However, we must be careful with this assessment since the stem for politics is the same for politeness.  We are on surer footing after the 1980s, and it is clear that women’s history, gender history, and cultural history had a significant effect on the field.  This is not particularly surprising, but it is probably worth noting the length in burst rates for “gender” and “masculinity”  in comparison to “women.”

Interestingly, “war” bursts immediately after 2001, but we must keep in mind that many of these articles were already in the publication pipeline before the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.  “Modern,” “Britain,” and “London” continue to have sustained bursts.  Given the concurrent “turn to empire” it is worth considering whether this might reflect a shift in the overall interests of the Journal of British Studies‘s authors and editors.

Stemword Bursts in Journal of British Studies Titles

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