Digital History Project Draft – Kristin Herlihy

This print project studies Google n-gram and Time Magazine Corpus trends of when key figures in American history and terms (ie freedom, independence, Constitution) were mentioned most frequently, revealing spikes during wartime and domestic disruption. The trends indicate, for the most part, a correlation between American values and historic figures, with the exception of the 1960s and 70s. A close reading of the 20th century reveals the context of the primary source documents and how historic figures and values were discussed and how they changed.

In writing this paper, I included classic founding fathers like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, but I also included figures from later in history like Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and the two Roosevelts. The time frame also ranges from the 1800s until the early 2000s, so I wonder if this is too broad of frame. Would the project be better off cutting the requirement for people searched to only founding fathers and beginning the study in the 20th century?

If you are interested in reading the draft, below is a shareable link from the Google Drive to access the PDF. If you have trouble accessing it, let me know!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzQISvboF93YaDg3VlZobzhhUEI5WEp3OFNUVjY1NzdKb3Bz/view?usp=sharing

 

One Reply to “Digital History Project Draft – Kristin Herlihy”

  1. Overall this essay is really coming along! You’ve nicely covered a lot of ground in it and you have also done a great job at structuring a well-organized and readable paper. You do a nice job talking through some of the limitations inherent to the kind of analysis you are doing.

    I find many of the graphs to be a bit too cluttered to read for your key points. With that said, the graph on page 9 (of just the different individual’s names) is more legible. My sense is that, going forward, it may make more sense to zero in on the people and let the more abstract terms go. That is, the comparisons between the different people’s names is likely enough and it’s always going to be more concrete. One of the challenges with a concept like “freedom” is that it could be used in so many different kinds of linguistic constructions that it’s challenging to know what we are really tracking with the term when we look at it’s trend line.

    I would suggest you consider integrating the analysis via nGram and the Time corpus together. It’s not necessarily something you would need to do now, but if you did want to continue working on this project going forward I think it would likely be stronger to organize this around the subjects you are studying and not the tools.

    FDR throws off the time magazine chart so much (it makes sense, given that he was in office and they were a publication covering current events). So there could be a good case for dropping him from that chart to potentially better illustrate issues in trends between the founding fathers.

    To your question, “The time frame also ranges from the 1800s until the early 2000s, so I wonder if this is too broad of frame. Would the project be better off cutting the requirement for people searched to only founding fathers and beginning the study in the 20th century?” You’re right to think about zeroing this in more. I think there is a lot to be said for thinking about just doing founding fathers. With that said, given how much Lincoln shoots to the front of the line for all of them and stays in the top of the list I think you could have a case for including him still too. If you did shift to just the 20th century, it looks like you loose some of the rather interesting trend line for Ben Franklin being a leading figure in literature over George Washington for a long time there. However you do it, I think you are right to think about winnowing down the range of terms you are using and I think you’ve also got a good case for shortening the range of time you cover. In any event, I think it’s really up to you. I would suggest you focus on whatever parts of this you are finding the most compelling and interesting.

    Overall, I’m really impressed by the work and the thinking you are doing on this. I haven’t really seen anyone do a study just like this and tracing mentions of the founding fathers seems like something that could ultimately become a publishable line of inquiry.

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