Luke is an historian of nineteenth and twentieth century Britain. His particular research specialism is British Politics, but he is also interested in the modern British Monarchy, and the Digital Humanities and ‘Big Data’ approaches to History. He is the author of The War of Words: the Language of British Elections, 1880-1914, and eighteen other chapters and articles. He appears sometimes on TV and Radio in documentaries, discussion shows, and the News.
He is also the lead author and director of the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding, which has sold over one million copies and licences and is used by the majority of UK Universities.
Luke has been teaching at Hertford College since 2013, and was previously the Draper’s Company Junior Research Fellow at the college. He has co-taught the ‘Forging of Modern Britain’ course for visiting students since 2014, and became Stipendiary Lecturer in Modern British History in 2022.
I am particularly interested in British Politics (with a capital ‘P’): elections, political parties, Parliament, ideology, political issues, communication and presentation, and constitution and cabinet. I am also interested in the local and national dimensions of politics, and centralisation. My primary period of interest is mid-late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, although I increasingly work on the Twentieth and even Twenty-First centuries. My most recent work on politics has primary been about Victorian electoral violence, and I am involved in an AHRC/ESRC grant funded project on the subject.
I am also extremely interested in Digital History, and much of my research to date has focused on a key methodological question. Namely, how historians can analyse huge multi-million word texts which are physically impossible to read in totality, for example general election campaigns in the late Victorian and Edwardian period, where an estimated billion words of platform speeches were delivered nationwide per campaign. My book, the War of Words, explores how quantitative and qualitative text mining techniques originating from Corpus Linguistics can help meet this challenge. As such, it is the first book length study in History that attempts to apply text mining to established historical debates with the aim or proving the utility of this method. I demonstrate how the systematic computerised analysis of millions of words of text can lead to new insights and major revisions to historians’ current understanding of British political language, which has thus far been based exclusively on manual reading and focused case studies. I use text mining in the majority of my published outputs, many of which are collaborations with Computer Scientists and Political Scientists.
I am also very interested in historical psephology in the style of classic Nuffield studies- something nowadays largely left to the political scientists. Two pieces – both published in the Historical Journal – use electoral data to reassess the structural basis of Conservative support in the 1880-1910 period, and the fall of the Liberal party after the Great War.
I am also interested in the role of women in modern British politics, and how they altered the substance of parliamentary debate. Finally, I am also working on the using text mining London’s Pulse corpus of London Medical Officer of Health reports from 1848-1972.