Digital Historiography with Google Ngram Viewer

According to Franco Moretti, graphs, maps, and trees are the way to go when researching a historical question. Moretti claims that mapping genres and the literary output of specific countries can be invaluable to any historian. So, I tried it out with my own question of Stalin and genocide in the Ukraine during the 1930’s. I can’t really tell what exactly this says about Stalin and genocide, but I can see that he was certainly more popular than genocide, the Ukraine, or the class, kulak, which he invented so he could essentially get away with genocide.

The Google Ngram Viewer seems like it might prove useful to research if you know already know exactly what to look for, and also, if you know in advance the connections you are looking for. I can see it adding another dimension to research–it certainly is thinking outside the box and it offers an interdisciplinary approach to historical questions. I like that.

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  1. #1 by Chris Cantwell on March 6, 2014 - 9:48 pm

    This is interesting. My reading of the nGram is more a question than an answer, which is how I think these things can be useful. Why is it that people talk about genocide more than 30-40 years after it supposedly happened? What was going on in that time that led to this steady growth in frequency?

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