The Eurocentric Fallacy: A Digital-Historical Approach to the Concepts of ‘Modernity’, ‘Civilization’ and ‘Europe’ (1840–1990)

J. van Eijnatten, Ruben Ros

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According to recent literature, the idea of Europe as it developed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries coincided closely with the concepts of ‘civilization’ and ‘modernity’. This article examines this claim by testing the existence of modernity, civilization and Europe as a conceptual ‘trinity’ by using digital history techniques. Word frequencies, collocations and word embeddings are employed to analyze four Dutch newspapers (Algemeen Handelsblad, Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, De Telegraaf, De Leeuwarder Courant) spanning the period 1840–1990. It transpires that semantic relations between the three elements are hardly visible; in so far as they appear, they hardly constitute a close-knit ‘trinity’. Alternating combinations among the three components were more significant than direct connections between all three, while ‘the West’ was more central than Europe. These findings suggest that popular media like newspapers have a different take on culturalpolitical concepts than writings by the intellectual elite.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-736
Number of pages51
JournalInternational Journal for History, Culture and Modernity
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • civilization
  • collocations
  • digital history
  • digital humanities
  • Europe
  • modernity
  • n-grams
  • word embeddings


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