- Thu, Jun 29, 2017 05:30 PM
Latitude: 51.7493, Longitude: -1.25663
In our seminar event on Thursday, 29th June 2017, we welcome: - Dr Louise Thompson (Lecturer in British Politics, University of Surrey); and - Dr Luke Blaxill (Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Anglia Ruskin University). This seminar event will be an opportunity for people working on the records of formal processes to discuss opportunities for collaboration and begin a discussion of future directions for research. Anyone who has undergraduate, graduate, or more senior research interests in this area is welcome to come. Programme Outline 1:50 p.m. - Registration / coffee 2:00 p.m. - Dr Louise Thompson, Lecturer in British Politics, University of Surrey 3:00 p.m. - Tea break (Cakes etc.) 3:30 p.m. - Dr Luke Blaxill, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Anglia Ruskin University The challenges of utilising UK parliamentary texts in research - Dr Louise Thompson (Lecturer in British Politics, University of Surrey) With thousands of legislative documents now available online, the UK Parliament has never been as transparent or as accessible as it is today. Changes to Parliament’s website, investment in public engagement strategies and interest in big data initiatives over the last decade have brought positive changes to the way in which Hansard texts, bill documents and committee reports are published online. But utilising parliamentary material continues to pose challenges for both academics and for members of the public. This presentation draws on my experience of researching legislative scrutiny in the UK Parliament over the last decade. It discusses some of the key challenges for researchers, including factual errors, duplicated documents, the tracking of amendments and changes to bills as well as ways in which the formatting and presentation of legislative documents can hinder academic analysis. It also touches on the challenges for members of the public and other external audiences, particularly the difficulty users face in searching for information on Parliament’s website. A War of Words? Text Mining Political Speeches in Britain in the 19th and 20th Centuries - Dr. Luke Blaxill (Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Anglia Ruskin University) Historians are increasingly surrounded by an ever-growing forest of machine-readable textual sources. The old challenge of scarcity has been replaced by that of abundance. Despite this, the impact of text mining in History has been remarkably weak. Historians, who continue to be extremely interested in language, continue overwhelmingly to prize sharply focussed analyses based on close readings. Macroscopic computational approaches based on large (or even small) corpora remain at the fringes, despite the traditional barrier of cost and manpower being considerably mitigated by the march of technology. This paper explores the transformative potential of text mining in this field in two areas of political language where large corpora have become available. The first example is based on election platform speeches in the late Victorian and Edwardian era. In this age of emerging democracy, even local constituency candidates would routinely hold over a hundred public meetings in an election campaign, speaking at length to large audiences which were often reported very thoroughly by a diligent and wordy press. I argue that even very simple text mining techniques in a relatively small corpus (4 million words) can challenge historical consensus on the contents of general election campaigns, on the significance of issues such as imperialism and Irish Home Rule, and the respective visibility of party leaders such as Gladstone and Disraeli. The second is an analysis of the language of women MPs in Parliament since 1945. Drawing upon the outputs of the Digging into Linked Parliamentary Data ('Dilipad') project – which has added gender and party coding to the digital edition of Hansard – I present a wide-ranging empirical analysis of the role of gender in the 677 million words of Commons debates from 1945 to 2015. I investigate whether there is strong evidence to support the central feminist claim that women's contributions to Commons debates are substantively different to those of men, ask whether the 'gender effect' has been strengthening or weakening as the number of women in Parliament has increased since the 1997 election, and also at the effect of party, such as the oft-made claim that Labour (with its greater proportion of female MPs and ideological sympathy for feminism) was more focussed on representing women than the Conservatives. Overall, I argue these techniques, whether used conservatively in a supplementary capacity alongside traditional approaches, or more boldly to lead analysis, have considerable potential to reshape historians' work in the digital age. They allow us to analyse texts too large in size to read, help overcome flaws in human ability to intuitively estimate frequency, allow greater verifiability, more precise communication of quantity, and a more empirical approach to working.