Time will Tell a Different Story

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor, 121-180 AD)

Project Description

Historic research has gone through significant changes over time, in an effort to produce the most objective presentations of the past. Facts may remain the same, but perspectives in the way historians describe people and events change. Historians used to write about divine interventions, kings and battles, but they now also concentrate on topics like slaves, the history of medicine and the development of farming. The angle of analysis evolves hand in hand with the change of time, society and public opinion. It is not uncommon for example, that a Dutch governor could be considered a hero in the nineteenth century and now is considered to be a war criminal.
In this project, two student assistants will investigate how these changes can be traced in historic text. They will combine expertise in historiography (research on how historians write their work) and computational linguistics to see what patterns can be observed comparing texts from different epochs. They will address the following research questions using data from BiographyNet:

  1. How is the historian’s perspective reflected in historic text?
  2. What changes in perspectives can be observed in texts from different epochs?

The full proposal can be found here.

Academy Assistants

The research in this project will be carried out by two academy assistants.

  • The history student will carry out historiographic analysis of the data. He or she will investigate the different perspectives that can be observed. The methodology that is used for this analysis will be explained in detail.
  • The computer science or linguistics student will work on technologies to identify perspectives automatically. He or she will investigate how existing tools and new methods can be used to support the historian’s analysis.