Semiautomatic History of Terrorism: Using Digital History 1.5 to Study Terrorism’s Emergence in Swedish Newspapers, 1848-1914

Mats Fridlund, University of Gothenburg, Centre for Digital Humanities

What was terrorism before terrorism was understood and recognized as we know it today? What are the industrial-technical developments that supported the emergence of this early terrorism? Historians generally consider modern terrorism, i.e. the politically motivated use of instrumentalized representative violence to communicate a message of social change, to start in 1878 with the revolutionist Vera Zasulich’s use of a modern semiautomatic Browning pistol to shoot the General Governor of St Petersburg. This shot initiated numerous failed, foiled and fulfilled political assassinations that together has been described as constituting a first ‘wave’ of terrorism lasting until WWI. However, a number of recent historical studies have showed the wave’s terrorisms having more varied meanings and motivations and less coherence than previously ascribed and thus being less of a unified and shared practice than earlier described. Besides better understanding terrorism’s historical emergence the aim is to develop ‘semiautomatic’ digital history research methods. Today most historians are ‘digital historians 1.0’ in that their normal research practice include the use of a number of ‘domesticated’ digital methods, sources and tools such as search engines, GoogleBooks, databases, etc. But few have broken out of the traditional historical research paradigm to become ‘digital historians 2.0’ doing research using specialized quantitative calculations, computer programs, visualization tools and methods. This presentation will explore the methodological and conceptual space in between the domesticated and paradigmatic digital history research methods – digital history 1.5. The presentation is exploring this gradual transformation of old and emergence of new modes and meanings of political terrorism, its industrial and technological context of emergence, through a quali-quantitative digital history study of the representation of international terroristic violence 1848-1914 in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 218. Textual Analysis of Digitized Newspapers