Luxe Blaxill,’Text Mining and Political History: challenges and opportunities in the age of Big Data’ (8 fév.)

Jeudi 8er février 2024 à 17h : Luke Blaxill (Oxford) – ‘Text Mining and Political History: challenges and opportunities in the age of Big Data”
This paper is about the challenges and opportunities afforded by the computational analysis of unreadably large textual datasets. I argue that historians have broadly failed to grasp these profound opportunities. Despite the abundance of machine-readable data liberated by digitisation, there has been no widespread embrace of text mining or more general revival of cliometrics. This ambivalence has arisen mainly through apathy and side-lining computational analysis to a specialist methodological niche. The absence of justification is damaging to the intellectual vitality of the discipline and its capacity to face the dawning age of data science and associated developments in artificial intelligence, seen recently with Chat GPT 4.

This paper will showcase examples of text mining in action in modern British political history. Case studies will include election speeches in the period 1880-1910, the contributions of women MPs in Parliament since 1945, and nineteenth century election violence.

I argue for a reopening of the wider debate about the historian and the computer. This requires informed sceptics to come forward to meet the advocates to discuss how we face the future. British political history has a proud tradition of methodological innovation and is a subfield which could begin a debate that has fundamental implications for the whole discipline

Luke Blaxill is college lecturer in Modern British History at Hertford College University of Oxford. He has published widely on text mining in History, especially British politics. His first book, The War of Words: the language of British Elections 1880-1914 was published in 2020 with the Royal Historical Society.

Louise A. Jackson, ‘Gender equalities at work: writing an interdisciplinary history of feminist campaigning in the UK c. 1970-2020’ (19 oct.)

Jeudi 19 octobre à 17h : Louise A. Jackson (Edimbourg), ‘Gender equalities at work: writing an interdisciplinary history of feminist campaigning in the UK c. 1970-2020’

It is 50 years since landmark legislation – the Equal Pay Act 1970 and Sex Discrimination Act 1975 – gave legal effect to the principle of gender equality in the workplace as a statutory requirement in the UK. Whilst campaigns were stimulated by the Women’s Liberation Movement, which rejected formal organisational models, they were taken forward by trade unionists as well as those who moved into occupational roles as lawyers, journalists, equal opportunities experts, policy advisers and ‘femocrats’ within mainstream institutions. This paper draws on interdisciplinary research conducted for the AHRC-funded project Gender Equalities at Work, which seeks to map the trajectories and experiences of equal pay and anti-discrimination campaigning since the 1970s and up to the present. The project overall provides a comprehensive analysis of the strategies, mechanisms, networks and tools that were used by key actors to shift the terms of legal and cultural discourse. This paper will discuss two discrete elements of our work. Firstly, it will explore some of the methodological challenges and benefits of working across disciplines to write a contemporary history of feminist campainging. Secondly, it will focus in on one particular strand: campaigning against workplace sexual harassment (which was judged to be a form of sex discrimination in 1986), to provide a characterisation of campaigning phases from the 1970s through to #MeToo. In so doing, it will seek to comment on how understanding of its history contributes to current debates on legal responses to sexual harassment. 


Louise A. Jackson is Professor of Modern Social History at the University of Edinburgh. Her research has traversed the social history of childhood and youth, women’s history, gender history and histories of the law, criminal justice and policing in Modern Britain. She is the author or co-author of five monographs including Women Police: Welfare and Surveillance in the Twentieth Century (2006), Policing Youth: Britain, 1945-70 (2014) and Police and Community in Twentieth-Century Scotland (2020). She is an editor of Social History, the international academic journal. The paper draws on the project ‘Gender Equalities at Work – an Interdisciplinary History of 50 Years of Legislation’, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and a collaboration between researchers at the University of Edinburgh, University College London, and The University of the West of England.

Programme 2023-2024

Les séances ont lieu, sauf indication contraire, le jeudi de 17h à 18h30 à la Maison de la Recherche de Sorbonne Université (28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e), salle D421

Jeudi 5 octobre 2023 : Séance pédagogique sur les ressources en ligne en histoire britannique (Fabrice Bensimon, Stéphane Jettot et Frédérique Lachaud)

Jeudi 19 octobre : Louise Jackson (Edimbourg), ‘Gender equalities at work: writing an interdisciplinary history of feminist campaigning in the UK c. 1970-2020’

Jeudi 9 novembre : Ophélie Siméon (Sorbonne Nouvelle), « Anna Doyle Wheeler (1785-1848): itinéraire politique et militant d’une pionnière du féminisme » (cette séance remplace celle avec John Tolan, initialement prévue).

Jeudi 23 novembre : William Ashworth (Liverpool) : ‘The Early Chemical Industry in North West England and Its Legacy’

Jeudi 7 décembre : Emily Ward (Edimbourg), ‘”I witness this myself”: adolescent rulers and political “belonging” in Britain and France, c. 1150 –c. 1260’

Jeudi 21 décembre : Myriam-Isabelle Ducrocq (Nanterre), sur son livre La République de Harrington dans la France des Lumières et de la Révolution (Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2023)

Jeudi 1er février 2024 : Alison Cathcart (Stirling) : ‘James VI & I and his empire of islands’

Jeudi 8 février : Luke Blaxill (Oxford), ‘Text Mining and Political History: challenges and opportunities in the age of Big Data’

Jeudi 15 février : Thomas Stammers (Durham): ‘Philippe, comte de Paris and the Orleans family in Exile after 1848: Liberalism, Collecting and Empire’  (la séance est annulée)

Jeudi 29 février: Béatrice Robic (Nanterre) : « Le travail des enfants en Angleterre et au pays de Galles entre 1870 et 1914 »

Jeudi 14 mars : Perry Gauci (Oxford) : ‘Friends and Countrymen: The London Private Banker in Eighteenth-Century Society’

Jeudi 28 mars : Lauriane Simony (Cergy) : « Diplomatie culturelle, stratégies d’influence et propagande : le British Council en Birmanie après l’indépendance »

Jeudi 4 avril : Sophie Scott-Brown (East Anglia), ‘The Impolitics of Internationalism: Claude Bourdet, G. D. H. Cole, and the International Society for Socialist Studies’

Jeudi 25 avril : James Fisher (Exeter), autour de son ouvrage The Enclosure of Knowledge. Books, Power and Agrarian Capitalism in Britain, 1660–1800 (Cambridge, 2022)

Jeudi 16 maiEmma Griffin (Queen Mary University of London), ‘Empire and the Origins of Global Capitalism’


Le séminaire est ouvert aux étudiants de master et doctorat, ainsi qu’à toutes les personnes intéressées. Les enregistrements de la plupart des communications sont ensuite disponibles sur la chaine YouTube du séminaire :

Gregory Claeys : ‘Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism’ (20 avril)

Jeudi 20 avril à 17h (Serpente, salle D421)

Gregory Claeys (Royal Holloway, University of London) – Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism


Few can have missed the fact that humanity is facing the greatest crisis in the earth’s history. With global warming currently at 1.25°C, but headed towards 3C or more, the threat of cataclysm is more real than ever. This talk argues that notional targets of 1.5C-2C are inadequate, and that warming must be kept below 1C. In order to achieve this, a variety of measures, commencing with the immediate renunciation of carbon fuels, but extending to a severe dampening of consumer demand and consumerism as such, must be implemented. The utopian tradition fruitfully provides a range of suggestions as to how to achieve this goal.


Gregory Claeys is Professor Emeritus at the University of London. His eleven books, which have been translated into nine languages, include Machinery, Money and the Millennium: From Moral Economy to Socialism (Princeton University Press, 1987); Citizens and Saints: Politics and Anti-Politics in Early British Socialism (Cambridge University Press, 1989); Thomas Paine: Social and Political Thought (Unwin Hyman, 1989), Searching for Utopia: the History of an Idea (Thames & Hudson, 2011), Mill and Paternalism (Cambridge University Press, 2013); Dystopia: A Natural History (Oxford University Press, 2016); Marx and Marxism (Penguin Books, 2018), Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism (Princeton University Press, 2022); and John Stuart Mill: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2022). He has edited The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2010; Turkish edn., 2017) and over forty volumes of primary sources, including Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (Hackett, 1992). He is editor-in-chief of a new collection of Paine’s collected writings in six volumes (2026, forthcoming), and Chair of the Utopian Studies Society (Europe

Luke O’Sullivan: “Theory TV: The Political Documentaries of Adam Curtis” (13/10)

Luke O’Sullivan, de la National University of Singapore, professeur invité à Sciences-Po St Germain en Laye (Univ. de Cergy-Pontoise), présentera sa communication “Theory TV: The Political Documentaries of Adam Curtis” le jeudi 13 octobre, de 17h30 à 19h30. Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e , salle D421.

Résumé :

“Adam Curtis (b.1955) is a British film-maker who has worked for the BBC since the early 1980s.  Over the course of three decades he has built up an impressive body of work on twentieth century history and politics which has yet to be noticed by an academic audience. This is despite the fact that he has regularly addressed the impact on politics and society of the ideas of a long list of thinkers that includes Sigmund Freud, Walter Lipmann, Leo Strauss, Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand, Sayid Qutb, John von Neumann, James Buchanan, Franz Fanon, John Nash, Isaiah Berlin, and Richard Dawkins, to name only some of the best-known. This paper offers an introduction to his films, and investigates the pros and cons of attempting to tackle major historical and philosophical themes in the televisual documentary format. It argues that while Curtis has many original observations to make about the fate of contemporary Britain (and of Western modernity) more generally, the only way to truly appreciate his contribution is, ironically, to turn his work back into text.”
The following documentaries can be watched prior to the conference: Century of the Self; All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace; The Power of Nightmares; and The Trap. All of them are on YouTube.

Discutante: Karine Chambefort, U. Paris-Est Créteil

Selina Todd, autour de son livre The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010

Selina Todd, de l’Université d’Oxford, ouvrira une discussion autour de son livre The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 (London, John Murray, 2014) le jeudi 17 mars de 17h à 19h. Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e , salle D421.

En raison des contrôles de sécurité, les personnes extérieures à Paris IV souhaitant assister à ce séminaire sont invitées à se munir d’une carte d’étudiant ou d’une carte professionnelle, ou encore d’une carte d’identité et de cette annonce imprimée.

Discutant: Yann Béliard de l’Université Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle

Podcast ci-dessous et sur le site de la SAS:

Présentation de l’éditeur : ‘There was nothing extraordinary about my childhood or background. And yet I looked in vain for any aspect of my family’s story when I went to university to read history, and continued to search fruitlessly for it throughout the next decade. Eventually I realised I would have to write this history myself.’

What was it really like to live through the twentieth century? In 1910 three-quarters of the population were working class, but their story has been ignored until now. Based on the first-person accounts of servants, factory workers, miners and housewives, award-winning historian Selina Todd reveals an unexpected Britain where cinema audiences shook their fists at footage of Winston Churchill, communities supported strikers and pools winners (like Viv Nicholson) refused to become respectable. Charting the rise of the working class, through two world wars to their fall in Thatcher’s Britain and today, Todd tells their story for the first time, in their own words. Uncovering a huge hidden swathe of Britain’s past, The People is the vivid history of a revolutionary century and the people who really made Britain great.