Quantitative Data from the Nineteenth Century

I try to find new ways to measure and explore the impact of the sweeping cultural transformations that unfolded during the nineteenth century, which still impinge on how we think about, study, and even manage education and society today.

Here are some cool datasets spanning 1800–1914 from my own papers that I've constructed from a litany of sources — sometimes via scripted automation and sometimes by hand. Below, you'll find a description, usable data frame, and the source. Have fun!

Statistics and Social Science Journals

The Professionalization and Institutionalization of Social Science, Statistics & Big Data

The development, professionalization, and institutionalization of the social sciences during the nineteenth century was an extraordinary force of cultural construction that played a huge part in elaborating and reifying new functionalist social theory. While much history has been dedicated to the origin stories of our contemporary social science disciplines around the 1880s, less work has been done on the nascent, integrated "sciences" of the social. These early social sciences were definitionally reformist, quantitative/empirical, and nearly innumerable. Especially from the '20s on, they constituted a veritable, if variegated, cultural movement to scientize both the study and governance of society. Using data I scraped from the WorldCat library catalogue, I include a data frame with each row a social science periodical and each column containing meta data.

Selected indicators of social scientization

Official UK Parliamentary Reports

The Explosion of Quantitative Data in UK Governance of Schooling & Education

Part of the expansion of the historic UK state in the nineteenth meant what Ian Hacking wrote as the "avalanche" of printed numbers. This entailed the official commissioning, publishing, and laying before Commons of technical reports ("blue books") containing new "big" data on an increasingly expansive set of social concerns relevant to the state during the nineteenth century (poverty, education, working conditions). These reports contained graphical and tabular statistics, which were new modes of observing, measuring, debating, and managing the state's role in society. Here, I include a data frame with each row an official technical report commissioned by the UK Parliament and each column relevant meta data.

UK Parliamentary technical reports on
schooling and education

Text Data of the UK Parliamentary Speeches

The UK Historical Hansard contains all that was said and up for debate in both Houses of Parliament, 1803–1914 (see API link below for all raw data until 2005). It includes speeches, readings, committee work, and actual bill texts. Here, I include a data frame with each row a speech and each column with relevant meta data. I also include the ParliParse Python module (annotated), which I wrote to parse the Historic Hansard's xml volumes.

Characteristics of the corpus of 1.1 million
UK parliamentary speeches

Acts of the UK Parliament

The nineteenth century witnessed a dramatic revolution in the UK state, which has a long and storied historiography. Previously, most Acts were contained in voluminous tomes that were inaccessible to most digital humanists and historical sociologists. Here, I include a data frame with each row an Act and each column containing meta-data (e.g., title, year, and an indicator if the Act was about schooling or education).

UK Parliamentary Acts on schooling and education

Agricultural & Industrial Output in the UK

There were two big waves of industrialization in the UK during the nineteenth century. Much work that systematically evaluates the role of economic development in explaining political and cultural change usually employs metrics such as gross domestic product. This is a good proxy. But a tighter metric would be a relative measure of the share of new forms of industrial production to agrarian production. Such a relative metric gets at general economic prosperity but also the expansion of new kinds of sectors, like manufacturing and mechanized labor. Here, I include such a relative measure of industrialization using annual time series data developed by economic historians Steven Broadberry and C.H. Feinstein. It includes total agricultural output, total industrial output, and the ratio between the two.

Industrialization in the UK