Lopend onderzoek

Dit is een Engelstalig project. 

This research project focuses on emotional expressions referring to World War II in historical Dutch texts (1945-1989). The project’s aim is to question the long-term relationship between World War II and war legacies on the one hand and expressions of emotions in post war Dutch society on the other.

Binnenhof vol met demonstranten foto: Onbekend-Anefo, Nationaal Archief- licentie CC-BY

Onderzoeker: Milan van Lange, MA
Promotor(en): Prof. dr. ismee Tames, dr. Ralf Futselaar
Looptijd: 2016-2021
Beoogde publicatie: Dissertation, website, articles, papers, blogs
Samenwerkingsverband: Utrecht University, SURFsara

Meer informatie:

The fact that emotions are closely linked to war and wartime experiences is widely acknowledged. It seems therefore unfair to state that emotions are an overlooked or forgotten category in World War II historiography. To date, however, the relationship between war and emotions is often explored within a framework in which certain specific, predefined emotions in relation to the wartime past have been key. This project aims not to predefine which emotions are distinctive in dealing with this past. Emotional language itself is approached as an object of investigation, by posing the following questions: Which emotions were and are distinctive in political and public debates concerning World War II and its history? Do they change trough time? And if so, how do they shift and change? Is World War II a more emotional subject in political and public discussions in the Netherlands than other contemporary matters?

Coping and dealing with the emotional legacies of World War II is usually investigated with a focus on case studies or with a purely qualitative approach. I suggest answering these questions from a more quantitative perspective, by analysing large collections of digitized historical texts with digital analytical instruments. The availability of sufficiently large digitized historical datasets and recent technological and methodological developments offer promising opportunities to subject emotions in relation to speaking about World War II to a fundamentally new assessment. Therefore text mining techniques are key in this research project.

It is an explicit ambition of the project to gain fresh insights into the applicability of modern, digital approaches to the analysis of historical texts. State of the art digital text and sentiment mining techniques will be explored, examined, applied and evaluated. I wish to make a useful addition to the historian’s toolbox by examining these techniques’ ability to grasp emotional expressions and related concepts in political debates and media coverage of World War II in the Netherlands. This research project can be considered as a proof of concept, as a proposal to new methodologies for identifying emotions in historical texts.

To summarize, this research project  aims to make three distinct contributions to historiography:

  • Gain more insights into emotions and expressions of emotions in public and political language, especially in a World War II-related context.
  • Contribute to a better understanding of the position of the war and wartime experiences in a post war Dutch society and to question common assumptions about, for example, the ‘silence’ of the 1950s or the ‘emancipation of emotions’ in the 1970s.
  • A proof of concept in digital and quantitative research methodology.

This research project is based at the NIOD and Utrecht University. The computing and data infrastructure of this research project is made possible by: SURFsara.