A funny sort of day. We played with the search terms some more, with an eye to getting a smaller number of better quality results. We were also keen to create a bigger gap between the neutral and medical/critical search terms, so we made sure these were exclusive, in one list or another but not both. Now we were only getting hits where the document contained ‘alcohol’ and/or ‘cirrhosis,’ and then sorting these into two columns, ‘neutral’ and ‘critical.’ And we managed to get all the documents into the system – well, nearly all of them. Elasticsearch wasn’t so helpful today and left us scratching our heads over a few mysterious problems.
I’m really quite new to this kind of thing, but it seems to me that the appeal of digital humanities is
- adopting a methodical approach, finding things you hadn’t anticipated finding;
- and working with more results than one person could manage on their own.
We certainly got somewhere with the first of these. The (imperfect) results we started to see showed us a few unusual results, just as the extent of the Medical Officer’s dealings with adulterated alcoholic drinks had been rather surprising. For a start some of the household manuals seemed to use the more critical or medical language you would expect from doctors – though this is because they did, of course, offer medical advice to their readers. But I was still surprised to find ‘cirrhosis’ in the index of the 1906 edition of Isabella Beeton’s famous Book of Household Management, between ‘Cinnamon, The Tree’ and ‘Cisterns, Closing of Polluted.’
The entry does not even mention alcohol, one of the key causes of cirrhosis of the liver, but this discussion is still situated within a classic text on middle class living, where alcohol is normally something you are told to use in making a trifle. It wasn’t the only example we found, and that’s interesting. These types of sources are more mixed than I had first anticipated
But we could not claim that this was the result of a search of the entire set of works we had chosen; it was simply a case of having some of the legwork done for us before we dove into the texts themselves. Hopefully the end result of this process will allow us to see at a glance which terms crop up where, and to see with some certainty where terms appear to be where we expected them to be, or not.
And that’s where we ended the penultimate day. Tomorrow Rioghnach and Nat will reflect on the process and see what can be done with these searches.