The Empire on Every Page
: An Exploration of Imperialism in the Victorian Press Using Digital Methodologies, 1850-1900


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


As historical research increasingly involves digitised sources and methods, historians have to adapt their practice to this ‘digital turn’. This thesis explores the implications of this reality by building two tools to use on the British Library Nineteenth-Century Newspapers archive, in order to establish the viability of researcher-developed tools. With this it will carry out its investigation in the prevalence of banal imperialism in the nineteenth century. The first tool will use Topic Modelling, the second will visualise the spatial nature of newspaper articles. For both these the thesis will establish the viability and limitations in service of the historical method. It shows that while topic models are useful for general exploration, on this archive they lack the required accuracy to anchor arguments. It finds the visualisation tool it developed allows for the discovery of spaces within a newspaper dedicated to given topics. This tool also allows the study of the development of layout and design practices on historical newspapers in new ways. It concludes that both tools are best used as aides for a human researcher, but cautions against allowing any tool to supplant human interpretation. Its findings on imperialism support the available literature. It establishes a wide body of banal imperial references permeated everyday Victorian life, and especially the press. It also establishes some aspects of theoretical frameworks for nationalism are applicable to studying imperialism.
Date of Award23 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorBOB NICHOLSON (Director of Studies) & Alyson Brown (Supervisor)


  • Digital Humanities
  • nineteenth-century Press
  • Digital Archives
  • Topic Modelling
  • Spatial Visualisation

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