Towards a “Text as Data” Approach in the History of Economics: An Application to Adam Smith’s Classics

Ballandonne, Matthieu, and Igor Cersosimo. 2022. “Towards a “text as Data” Approach in the History of Economics: An Application to Adam Smith’s Classics” Forthcoming in Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Preprint available at: 10.31219/osf.io/mg3zb

Posted: 4 Jun 2020 Last revised: 9 May 2022

See all articles by Matthieu Ballandonne

Matthieu Ballandonne

Ecole Superieure Des Sciences Commerciales D'Angers (ESSCA)

Igor Cersosimo

Ecole Superieure Des Sciences Commerciales D'Angers (ESSCA)

Date Written: May 7, 2020

Abstract

Quantitative techniques have received increasing attention in the history and methodology of economics. Nonetheless, a “text as data” approach has mostly been overlooked and its applicability to the history of economics remains to be examined. To understand what we gain from such quantitative techniques in relation to existing historical analyses, we apply some “text as data” techniques to Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. We explore the books’ topics, styles, and sentiments. We show how word frequency analysis can be used to examine the differences between the books, shed light on conceptual discussions and reveal an important stylistic aspect, specifically Smith’s use of personal pronouns. Style analysis shows the similarities and differences in terms of lexical richness and readability between the two books. Finally, we show the limitations of a third technique, sentiment analysis, when applied to historical economic texts.

Keywords: Adam Smith; Lexical diversity; Readability; Sentiment analysis; Text as data; Text mining

JEL Classification: B12; B41

Suggested Citation

Ballandonne, Matthieu and Cersosimo, Igor, Towards a “Text as Data” Approach in the History of Economics: An Application to Adam Smith’s Classics (May 7, 2020). Ballandonne, Matthieu, and Igor Cersosimo. 2022. “Towards a “text as Data” Approach in the History of Economics: An Application to Adam Smith’s Classics” Forthcoming in Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Preprint available at: 10.31219/osf.io/mg3zb, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3595120 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3595120

Matthieu Ballandonne (Contact Author)

Ecole Superieure Des Sciences Commerciales D'Angers (ESSCA) ( email )

1 rue Joseph Lakanal
BP 40348
Angers Cedex, 49003
France

Igor Cersosimo

Ecole Superieure Des Sciences Commerciales D'Angers (ESSCA) ( email )

1 rue Joseph Lakanal
BP 40348
Angers Cedex, 49003
France

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
596
PlumX Metrics