Google Ngram

I used the Branch Collective website to choose words that I thought may show interesting correlations regarding their presence in texts throughout the nineteenth century. For my first Ngram, I looked at evolution and ethics. For my second Ngram, I looked at imperialism and nationalism.

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The first chart (evolution and ethics) shows an increase in the use of both evolution and ethics later in the century, around 1870. This makes a lot of sense because Charles Darwin began to publish his theories around this time, and there was a lot of talk and controversy surrounding evolution. Many debates on evolution took place around this time, such as the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford. Ethics played a large role in debates surrounding evolution and God.

The second chart (imperialism and nationalism) shows an increase in both words during the second half of the century, with a huge spike in “imperialism” at the tail end, closest to 1900. This makes a lot of sense because the Second Boer War started in 1899 and was marked by an increase in feelings of nationalism and the “New Imperialism,” along with racism and genocidal thinking. This was part of the “Scramble for Africa” among European nations.

(source: Branch Collective Topic Clusters –

Google Ngram Viewer is very helpful in locating trends within literature of digitized books from specific time periods. However, as noted in the blog post by Ted Underwood, there is a lack of context which can lead to misinterpretation or misinformation. That is why websites like Branch Collective can be helpful in understanding these correlations and trends.


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