Researchers from the University of Bristol used artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to analyse 47,000 multilingual pages from newspapers dating back to 1873. The aim of the study, which has been published in Historical Methods, was to discover whether historical changes could be detected from the collective content of local newspapers from the Princely County of Gorizia and Gradisca.
The findings revealed a series of political and cultural events which took place in a forgotten corner of the Austrian Empire that is now divided between Italy and Slovenia, some of which were unknown.
A team of computer scientists and a historian digitised microfilms of old multilingual newspapers from the County between 1873 to 1914. The images were then converted to text. The patterns that emerged from the automated analysis of 47,000 pages revealed the individual stories of thousands of people, but also the collective trends of a population in the years leading up to WW1 and the final years of that Empire.
Professor Cristianini, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and lead author of the study, said: “Importantly, we get a glimpse in the last years of a world heading towards a new chapter in its history and during a period that transformed it beyond recognition. We see new technologies, new ideas, new economic opportunities, new cultural challenges and problems.”