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The Hannah More Project

Computational Analysis, Author Attribution, and the Cheap Repository Tracts of the 18th Century

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Who is Hannah More?

Hannah More was an Evangelical Christian educator and writer in the late eighteenth century. She was born February 2, 1745 in Stapleton, Bristol. In her youth, her relationship with her father was deep and through his influence, she and her sisters opened a boarding school for young women during the 1790’s. Unlike most boarding schools, the focus was on teaching Christian theology and values in order to aid women as they married and became mothers. 

To facilitate her teaching, Hannah wrote plays and ballads that the girls could read, perform, and learn from. Aside from teaching, More is best known for her philanthropic work with the poor as well as her written work with the Cheap Repository Tracts. Her beliefs as a Christian influenced her to reach out to people of the lower classes. Scholars claim that her work on the tracts was intended to teach Christian values with the purpose of improving society through enlightening citizens. However, many scholars also criticize her attitudes towards the poor.

These tracts were extremely popular, with 2 million sold by March 1796 (Blanch 5). More is credited with writing 163 tracts, while over fifty have been published with unknown authorship. As Anna Blanch elaborates in her thesis “A Research of the Authorship of the Cheap Repository Tracts,” writers sometimes published anonymously so that readers would focus on the work rather than authorship. However, More’s work was done with the help of sponsorship and through collaboration with her contemporaries.

What is our project? 

We have been interested in the complex reception of Hannah More and the Cheap Repository Tracts for some time. The collaborative nature of the latter is especially intriguing because authors of the Tracts, other than More, have largely remained in anonymity. Anna Blanch, in her thesis "A Reassessment of the Authorship  of the Cheap Repository Tracts," identifies 52 tracts that lack any known authorship. Armed with digital tools for authorial attribution, we set out to link at least one author to one of those tracts. After running the texts through cluster analyses and topic modeling software, we feel that our findings are promising.  

Although this started as an assignment for English 630TT, a graduate-level digital humanities course in the English department, it is our aim to continue this project throughout the remainder of our time at California State University, Northridge. For information on how you can get involved, please contact us. 

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