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Multidisciplinary study provides new insights about French Revolution

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Eric Spilde
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-- New research from experts in history, computer science and cognitive science shines fresh light on the French Revolution, showing how rhetorical and institutional innovations won acceptance for the ideas that built the French republic's foundation and inspired future democracies.

The researchers, including an Indiana University professor, doctoral student and undergraduate, used data-mining techniques to comb through transcripts of 40,000 speeches from the two-year tenure of the National Constituent Assembly, the first parliament of the revolution.

"At the beginning of the revolution, there's just a whole lot of newness going on," said Rebecca Spang, a co-author of the paper and a professor of history in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences.

"Eventually, some of it sticks, and people gravitate to it and keep working with it.

The study, "Individuals, Institutions and Innovation in the Debates of the French Revolution," was published April 17 in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, or PNAS.

Alexander Barron, an IU doctoral candidate in the School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering is the lead author; other authors are Jenny Huang, a 2017 IU graduate with majors in social and cultural analysis; and Simon DeDeo of Carnegie Mellon University and the Santa Fe Institute.

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