Data visualization of Indian Mutiny causes in Victorian higher journalism

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University of Alabama Libraries

When its Indian colony revolted in the summer of 1857, England was caught off guard. Largely ignored before the uprising, India surged to the forefront of foreign affairs discourse as periodical writers attempted to understand the shock by assigning blame through various rhetorical strategies. This finger pointing appeared in the higher journalism of 1857-8 in publications like the Edinburgh Review, Westminster Review, and Bentley's Miscellany. Though the uprising was quickly suppressed, the Indian Mutiny occupied nearly one hundred percent of foreign affairs articles appearing across all types of periodicals in the next year and a half. As the largest and most comprehensive source of Victorian materials, periodicals provide an accurate measure of the discourse of the time -- a gauge that Vann and VanArsdale believe may never occur again with such precision. In the higher journalism of 1857-8, the British understanding of the Indian Mutiny forms through this continual discourse concerning the causes, solutions, and fictionalized accounts of mutiny, all of which comment directly or indirectly on the cause. That the Indian Mutiny had profound effects on the British imagination was observed in 1897 by Hilda Gregg and has been more recently explored by Christopher Herbert, Patrick Brantlinger, and Gautam Chakravarty. Yet, for all of the critical interest in the Indian Mutiny, none have utilized the tools of digital humanities to aid their research. Because of the volume of periodical publications, a study of the British reception of the Indian Mutiny is well-suited for such an approach. Using the tools of data visualization, this project will attempt to condense all articles about the Indian Mutiny in the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals into a series of graphs tracking the reported causes of mutiny. Data visualization of these articles' stated causes results in the opportunity for comparative analysis between articles, journals, political affiliations, and different times. Ultimately, this thesis will not only refine Indian Mutiny explanations previously offered by historical and cultural critics, but will also establish data visualization and other tools of digital humanities as essential methodological approaches to Victorian periodical studies.

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