Political Discussion and Debate in Narrative Time: The Florentine Consulte e Pratiche, 1376-1378

John F. Padgett, University of Chicago
Katalin Prajda, University of Chicago
Benjamin Rohr, University of Chicago
Jonathan Schoots, University of Chicago

The Florentine Consulte e Pratiche is the oldest recorded series of speech-by-speech policy discussion by political elites in European history, over one hundred and fifty years in length. We analyze political discussion in the Consulte e Pratiche during the 1376-1378 period of the War of Eight Saints, which led up to the famous Ciompi Revolt. Our interest is in discovering both the semantic-network and the factional-network mechanics of this unexpected spillover from foreign-policy conflict into domestic revolt. Our central finding at the semantic level (part I) is that this spillover from war to revolution was mediated through the ceremonial and political-economy sides of religion. Our central Braudelian finding at the factional level (part II) will be that the Ciompi Revolt was the superposition of political conflicts from numerous temporalities, induced by repeated waves of immigration. The methodology in part I is to uncover the evolving narrative-network structures exhibited in Florentine political discussion – namely, changing inter-correlations among keywords of topics, through chapters and subplots. “Narrative-network analysis” for us means (a) uncovering changing topological portraits of how subplots interlink through time, and (b) discovering interlock “hinges” through which new historical trajectories of subplot combinations become defined. In our case, the linguistic hinges between foreign policy and domestic revolt were rooted in religion.

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 Presented in Session 34. Big Data and Its Discontents: Assumptions about Reading History in the Automated Analysis of Texts