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Alien, Foreigner, Migrant: The language of immigration in the Victorian media

Explore how the language surrounding immigration shifted in Victorian England

The British media’s depiction of immigration has recently come under scrutiny, in particular their choice of terminology. However, we know surprisingly little about the language which the press of the past associated with migration.

In this talk Ruth Byrne will explore how the language surrounding immigration shifted in Victorian England. We will see how the tone of the press changed in the years prior to the 1905 Aliens Act, Britain’s first restrictive immigration legislation.

This timely and revealing analysis is based on Ruth’s current PhD research project, which uses corpus linguistic software to provide a fresh perspective on the British Library’s 19th Century Newspapers database (approx. 50 billion words). Corpus software allows the analysis of very large texts, much larger than can feasibly be read by hand alone. For historical research, this opens up exciting possibilities, dramatically extending the scale of the questions we can ask of our sources.

A collaborative project between the British Library and the University of Lancaster, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Ruth’s PhD thesis explores “Attitudes to immigrants in the 19th century: Using very large historical corpora for socio-historical research."

Please bring your packed lunch. Tea, coffee and cake will be provided.


Ruth Byrne | talks


Date and Time:

5 December 2016 at 12:30 pm


1 hour



British Library
96 Euston Road


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