SMH 2013 in the cloud

The long-awaited program for the New Orleans SMH conference has finally been released. And, sure, you could download the PDF yourself and read through that long list of paper titles, but wouldn’t it be more interesting to get an impressionistic ‘blink’ of the conference in its entirety? Of course it would be. So here it is:

Wordle cloud of SMH 2013 paper titles

Wordle cloud of SMH 2013 paper titles (click to enlarge)

In future posts I’ll analyze what the 2013 program suggests about the interests of SMH members by delving a bit more into the details, but for the time being, a few painfully-obvious conclusions based solely off of the titles of the papers:

  • I think the Society of Military History is interested in the Military and War. Though a few do promote Peace, at least in the paper titles.
  • Befitting a conference themed “War, Society and Remembrance,” Memory is a popular word, Remembrance (bottom left) not quite as much. Other synonyms of note include Memories, Myth, Legacy, Remembering, Remembered, Unremembered, and Forgetting. Some have clearly figured out how to get their papers accepted!
  • SMHers are an Anglo-centric lot, with multiple papers on American (including African-American), British/English and Canadian subjects. France also has a respectable showing, although the Germans are perhaps a bit too close for their liking. But aren’t they always? A smattering of other papers are dedicated to the history of all those other countries that Americans still can’t locate on a map, such as China and Sweden.
  • Among the wars (in gray), no surprise that World War II (Second World War, D-Day, Eastern Front) rules the roost. WW1 (Great War) also makes a strong showing. The American Civil War (Civil War) seems to be comfortably in third place, while the War of 1812 and the Cold War jockey for a respectable fourth. The War of the Spanish Succession can see the Vietnam War ahead of it, but has been dropped from the peloton (last session!). Here’s hoping for the lanterne rouge.
    [Update: In a stunning development prompted by the discovery of a scoring error, a recalculation of the results allows the Vietnam War (Vietnam) to vault into third, stripping the American Civil War of its bronze medal. The League of Concerned Nineteenth Century Historians says it plans to protest the decision.]
  • The most popular varieties of military history are fully represented: intelligence, command (Decision), politics (Political), campaigns, foreign policy, strategy and defense, and military-civilian interactions (Occupation).
  • Army can’t seem to beat Navy in the stadium, but the opposite is true at the podium.
  • A new historical record, with explicit historiographical mention of sieges actually eclipsing that of battle.

That’s all for now.

3 thoughts on “SMH 2013 in the cloud

  1. As someone interested in war and the environment I was intrigued to see that the word “environment” does not appear in the Cloud at all (as far as I can tell), although there are at least two panels this year (one of which is a round table) devoted to examining the relationship between warfare and the environment. The term “medical” does appear and it is not as small as one might have imagined.

    To be fair, my paper this year deals in part with the environment although that word does not appear in either the panel title or that of my paper. I will keep this in mind when devising future proposals. It would be interesting if one would see a similar result when examining the forthcoming papers and panels at the 2013 April ASEH meeting looking for words related to warfare.

  2. Thanks for the comment. The word cloud was automated from, and it only takes paper title words into account. In a future post I’ll categorize the papers using my noggin’, which hopefully will provide a bit more of a nuanced perspective. Another level of analysis is to look at it on the panel level, which I’ll also do.

  3. I also concur with your last point about thinking more about how we title our papers and panels. I’ve heard that publishers pay more and more attention to include popular keywords in their titles so they get lots of hits. Similarly, I’d bet more and more people will be analyzing content with simple word frequencies as I did here. On my own blog, I also noted that History tends to have really vague language, unlike the precise terminology used in the sciences. History’s vagueness makes it difficult for people to figure out what exactly such work is about. The solution, however, would require a shared vocabulary that historians seem hesitant to adopt, witness the long-winded debates over a military “revolution,” the names for wars (War of the League of Augsburg or the Nine Years WR?), etc.

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