Periodicals in Motion: Hebrew Journalistic Networks in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century

Open University Research Authority Grant 511669 (2020-2022).

The second half of the nineteenth century saw the establishment of numerous Hebrew periodicals in Eastern Europe and the Middle East that would play a major role in creating a modern Hebrew “republic of letters.” In the multilingual context of Jewish communities, Hebrew was not an obvious choice for a journal. It had the advantage, however, of bridging the geographical and cultural distances between Jewish communities. For diasporic Jewish communities, the Hebrew press functioned as a printed-word public sphere. In Benedict Anderson’s terms, these journals had an important role in reimagining the religious Jewish communities as a modern nation. While previous studies of Jewish journalistic networks used qualitative research methods, this study uses computational tools to provide a wider perspective on the phenomenon of Hebrew periodical networks.  Our corpus consists of 13 Hebrew periodicals published from 1856 through 1897, which provides a well-rounded perspective of the Hebrew periodicals of the time, representing different geographical regions and sects.

The convergence and divergence of this network, leading up to the establishment of the Zionist movement, is explored through the perspective of textual reuse. Oft-concealed textual and social relations between editors, writers, and readers are revealed using a mixed methods approach consisting of text reuse detection algorithms, network analysis methods, and a close reading of the corpus. This study reflects the ways in which journalistic networks shaped the community, regardless of geographical or ideological proximity.

Corpus Size: 13 journals, 41 years (1856-1897), 126,288 articles.

Connections: 290599 matching pairs of articles (29869 articles in total); 2.5 copied sentences on average; 239 days on average separating matching articles

Figure 1: A three-dimensional map of the editorial locations of the suggested corpus and their movement through time and space. The vertical axis represents the time of publication, and each vertical box represents a single periodical. Blue lines on the background map reflect movement of the editorial locations of a certain periodical, a solid line reflects continuous publication in a new location, and a dotted line reflects a break in publication of more than a year. Relocated periodicals are represented with a similar colored box in their new locations. The map was created in QGIS.