Sentiments and emotions are transdisciplinary concepts. Depending on research focus, their expression in words and actions is triggered by a somatic event, emerges from the depths of the individual psyche or crystallises in a given sociolinguistic environment. Prior to all analysis in this paper, we reject the idea of any single origin of emotions; our basic posture is to consider them at the interface of a plurality of origins and scales of reality, ranging from the individual to the global context, from the immediate event to the long timescale of biological evolution. By analysing a set of historical documents produced by the Swiss administration in the first half of the 20th century, we ask whether emotions can be observed throughout the years at the regional scale of continents and countries.1 We ask whether variation in their expression and intensity correlates with historical events2 and the evolution of diplomatic and administrative practices. The novelty of this line of questioning lies in spanning several fields of research and implies both methodological and theoretical reflexivity to contain its historical object.
Our work requires adopting a ›remote reading‹ posture. We shall use ›sentiment analysis‹, a well-known set of computer-assisted methods for identifying subjective affects in data; in our case, texts written in a natural language. We shall combine the individual texts of our corpus based on place and time of composition and measure the ›sentiments‹ expressed in these aggregates. Because the very idea of a super-individual emotion can only be constructed in this assembling, quantitative manner, we dedicate an important part of this paper to explicate the extent of the concept of sentiment in this methodological context and to reflect upon its contribution to our general understanding of sentiments of social groups and institutions.
The nature of our documents also induces another methodological challenge. Traditionally, textual sentiment analysis (TSA) is used to observe the evolution of a book's mood throughout individual chapters, detect the fingerprint of an author, detect passages for close reading, sort mail or follow the trends on the Web 2.0 with regard to a specific topic. Curricular examples of TSA often rely on public domain fiction. Its commercial applications focus on customer feedback over e-mails, blogs and social media. In all of these examples, strongly expressive language is frequent, including accounts of state officials. Sentiment is most straightforward when reading of »crooked Hillary Clinton [...] the worst looser of all times«3 or »Fiona and her team at the Tudor Club - delicious lunch! Important social club«.4 Twitter, of course, provides real time access to massive textual data and has received understandable focus in digital politology.5 But how does TSA deal with diplomatic language from the first half of the 20th century?
What Are Political Reports
Doubtlessly, the difficulty in assessing subjective affects in diplomatic documents will rise with their degree of formality. In this case study, we concentrate on the corpus of the political reports of Swiss ambassadors.
Since the second half of the 19th century, Swiss embassies in an increasing number of world cities have to send regular reports (usually on a monthly basis) on the political and military situation in their host countries to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in Bern. These reports served to inform the government about the international situation and thus were the basis for making foreign and security policy decisions. These so-called ›political and military reports‹6 are valuable sources for historic analysis under different approaches. In particular, they contain information about the official Swiss perception of foreign nations and their political developments. As internal diplomatic documents, they are written by diplomats in diplomatic wording, but they do not reflect the polished diplomatic style of official utterances. The style is the result of the combination of a diplomatic culture that developed in the inter-war period and professionalised after the World War II, and many years of individual training in the course of a diplomatic career. As such, these documents are both institutional and subjective and can be questioned for sentiments or value judgements. One recent example is the confidential report by the Swiss ambassador in Washington during the diplomatic crisis of the mid-1990s, caused by the critique against the Swiss policy during World War II. The report was leaked and published, and the Swiss ambassador had to resign.7 He had not met the expected diplomatic restraint.
Diplomats and the evolving culture of diplomacy
The authors of our corpus, the diplomats, are experts.8 They have their own professional habitus and language (cf. infra). We could speak of a culture of diplomacy that ritualises feelings and guides the risk associated with them in orderly ways. The term ›diplomacy‹ has a twofold meaning: On the one hand, it signifies the substance of diplomatic affairs and on the other, the style and manner in which such businesses are conducted. Traditionally, at the centre of diplomatic activity used to be the representation. While explaining the formation of diplomatic forms and styles in Europe, Pietro Gerbore speaks of a diplomatic ceremonial of envoys: In Venice and Rome, for example, the diplomats accompanied the dignitaries because they represented the prince or the government of their country.9 Rank, priority and precedence play(ed) an important role in the diplomatic game.10 Today, state visits still display old elements of such ceremonies: the red carpet, the music band, the (military) honour guard, the festive reception, etc.11
In the second half of the 20th century, the design of diplomacy was less solemn. Negotiations, correspondence (notes, reporting), protection of interests, press and propaganda were typical tasks of an embassy.12 These activities had been regulated internationally in the Vienna Convention of 1961. The regulation was necessary because, with the growth of the number of states and the expansion of state functions, the number of embassies and diplomats had grown rapidly.13
Switzerland initially had more consulates than diplomatic missions. On the eve of World War II, the confederation maintained a network of 121 consular offices, some of them professional and some honorary.14 The reasons for the extension of the diplomatic service were above all the increasing Swiss exports and emigration.15 Compared to the professionalisation of the Foreign Service in Germany and France, Switzerland had a considerable backlog. For a long time, it used private contractors for bilateral negotiations, such as entrepreneurs who represented Swiss interests in the country where they had their business. In Asia, the Federal Council (the Swiss government) appointed the first permanent head of mission for Asia only in 1906, at the Government of Japan.16 The decolonisation after World War II brought a considerable growth. Later, the title Ambassador supplanted that of the envoy (French: ›ministre‹). The head of mission in Paris was the first to receive the title of Ambassador in 1957.17
Today, the FDFA recruits diplomats in a multistage admission competition, the so-called Concours, and trains them for around two years at home and abroad. For its Concours diplomatique 2018, the FDFA was seeking »young and innovative talents who use their potential of diplomacy to actively shape Swiss foreign policy«.18 Their activities »in the context of international relations, including in the fields of politics, economics, international law, environment and culture« contain notably19 attending a country, attending conferences and organisations, answering legal questions in the context of international relations, representing the interests of Switzerland (economy, technology, politics, culture), supporting Swiss companies and establishing and maintaining networks.
Keller discussed the »democratization of the diplomatic corps« in the context of the Concours.20 Portraying Swiss diplomats in Paris, Washington, London, Moscow, New York and Cologne, he came to the conclusion that »the person shaped the activity«,21 meaning that it is not the development in the diplomatic service that shapes the activities of an ambassador but the experiences he has made in his previous career. He argued that the most important instrument to influence the activity of a diplomatic post is reduced to the selection of its chargé d'affaires.22 TSA could verify such statements against a broad empirical foundation, for instance by following the evolution of the language of a given ambassador or by examining correlations between professional promotions or transfer of diplomats in function with statistically measurable linguistic features of his or her reports.
Scope and limitations
Our algorithmic analysis of the Swiss political reports is of course subject to a series of material contingencies. The original documents of the E2300* fond are printed on paper of diverse qualities and formats, which required scanning and optical character recognition. Furthermore, the political and diplomatic reports are written in many languages, among which 46% are written in French,23 an official language as well in Switzerland as in the international diplomatic circles since the 18th century. Coming after in terms of frequency are German (35%), English (9%) and Italian (2%), and then a series of other languages. Because of the methodological difficulties associated with conducting TSA across multiple languages, we have chosen to focus on the most frequently one, French, at this stage, and constructed our analytical system around it. From our original set of 80,322 documents, we have only kept 23,700 based on the following criteria:
- identified as written in French by their metadata24
- >400 characters long (a short paragraph)
- >20 single words long after tokenisation25
- >70% of words clearly identifiable as French26
The corpus totals 15,584,725 words, of which 35% are associable with an emotion by the FEEL dictionary (cf. infra). Individual reports contain between 24 and 102,000 words. Only 130 documents exceed 10 pages length (Figure 1).
Figures 2 and 3 show that these reports come from all of world's and Europe's regions, respectively. This is an important precondition for testing our hypothesis according to which differences in sentiments across nations and continents can be identified. Reports from important cities, such as Moscow28 and Madrid,29 are obviously missing. Nevertheless, the amount of documents, collected from cities well scattered around the world map, allows us to observe regional differences. We note that the system of Swiss embassies mostly concentrates in Europe and on the East Coast of North America. In the nearest neighbouring countries, ambassadors are present in many different cities, especially in less centralised Germany. This offers a nice illustration of the »first law of geography«, according to which »everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things«.30 »Near«, though, may not refer to topographical space only:31 The presence of Swiss envoys in North America should rather be understood in terms of political proximity. On the opposite, many countries of Asia and Africa still lack Swiss representation by the end of the 1960s, above all countries that only gain independence from colonial powers later on. Geopolitical interest, here, is an obvious factor of explanation. Japan, for instance, who enjoys the status of a colonial power in the Pacific from the second half of the 19th century, also enjoys the presence of a Swiss diplomatic envoy since 1906.
We further hypothesise that sentiments show a chronological evolution, which can be correlated with general or specific political, economic or cultural trends. In such a way, TSA can contribute to a history of the administration, to a description and analysis of diplomatic and administrative practices. For this, we need our data to be sufficiently fine-grained on the historical time scale.
The date of most political reports in our possession is expressed in time spans covering several years. In effect, the dating is not based on the documents themselves but on the associated metadata in the archival database of the Swiss Federal Archives (SFA). Figure 4 illustrates the historical distribution of these dates (cf. Figure 2).
As Figure 4 shows, the most densely covered period across all cities, on which we therefore focus, lies between 1920 and 1960. Reports from cities such as Antwerp are few and dated to a single, wide time span (1857–1936) excluding analysis of a historical evolution. Documents from Mexico are more numerous and stem from five different time spans, but the dating precision is still insufficient. On the contrary, cities such as Paris, Washington, Tokyo, London and Stockholm provide a continuous sequence of precisely dated texts. We have selected such cities due to this availability of fine-grained chronological data. We have set the precision threshold to 3 years, meaning that we excluded reports dated from a larger time span from further analysis. This brings us down to 12,364 analysed reports. The next question is whether the language of these texts allows detection of statistically meaningful sentiments.
A State of Practice in Sentiment Analysis
Sentiments, feelings, affects and emotions
The European Parliament recently tested TSA of foreign documents to detect translation bias. In case of quantifiable change in mood and sentiment across translations in documents, Whelchel and Fellbaum speak of »misconstrued communications«, which the administration seeks to overcome.32 Algorithms become its tool of international sentiment expression alignment. Whatever the purpose and chosen method of TSA, making its epistemic posture explicit is essential for its use and the interpretation of its results.
If an algorithm is to attribute sentiments to data of any type, it needs a predefined discrete and finite set of sentiment categories. Whether such a set can be constructed at all is of course in dispute,33 as much as the ›real difference‹ between sentiments, feelings, affects, emotions and opinions.34 Plamper, like other authors, overcomes the latter by encompassing all of these terms in a meta-concept.35 For ourselves, except for ›opinion‹, we shall treat these terms as synonyms, since their distinction provides no added value in our context. We also concur with Plamper or Scheer36 about the need for a better dialogue between neuroscience and the social sciences, i.e. for overcoming rigid postures that oppose, at best, scientist universalism to ideological culturalism and, at worse, phrenology to creationism. Thus, while considering any finite set of ›basic emotions‹ as an epistemic construct, we also recognise its pragmatic value and necessity.
We retain that natural language provides names for sentiments, which can serve as a classification basis. We also pose that language participates in the mental state of its speaker, by encouraging her to conceive her emotions in a specific way. In turn, her use of a given vocabulary to express her emotions contributes to the reification of this vocabulary and of the associated mental states of other individuals, and thus affects her social environment. Emotions »arise at junctures of social plans«.37 This also means that we can expect emotions expressed by individuals in an administrative apparatus to reflect political or historical events, as much as the other way around: Such events are indeed the ultimate expression of the emotions of political bodies. Their analysis can contribute to a history of the administration that is not only the history of the rationality of an institutional order, as Max Weber stressed,38 but also the history of ritualising feelings and guiding the risk associated with them, especially in diplomacy.
Polarities and basic emotions
TSA inherits its basic emotions from research in psychology and neuroscience, for example:39
- Ekman, Friesen, Ellsworth:40 anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise
- Plutchik:41 trust, anger, anticipation, disgust, joy fear, sadness, surprise
- Jack, Garrod, Schyns:42 happiness, sadness, fear | surprise, anger | disgust
Most authors working with basic emotions consider these as categories subsuming a wider range. Cheerfulness, zest, contentment, pride, optimism, enthrallment and relief, for example, are all considered as variants of joy by Shaver et al.43 Some propose a graduation of basic emotions and derived sentiments, such as remorse as a combination of disgust and sadness (Figure 5). Most include at least four emotions among the ›basic‹ ones: anger/rage, happiness/joy/elation, sadness and fear/anxiety.
Some authors treat basic emotions as distinct from sentiment polarities: positive vs. negative,44 also referred to as semantic orientation or valence.45 We propose to consider such polarities as highest metasets of basic emotions. For TSA, it is noteworthy that discrete polarities (-1,1) closely relate to the linguistic concept of synonyms and antonyms. Some authors include a neutral valence (-1,0,1) or attribute polarities on a continuous scale of real numbers between -1 and 1,46 translating, for instance, the difference in degree between serenity, joy and ecstasy.
Textual sentiment analysis in popular approaches
TSA uses mainly two classes of methods to detect sentiments in texts, based on either a lexicon or machine learning.
A lexicon-based approach considers a text as a list of words. It does not analyse its sequential linguistic structure but only frequencies of isolated words (unigrams), predefined phrases or word sequences of uniform length n (n-grams). By constructing the so-called document-term matrix, one seeks to identify individual texts in which some words occur more than in others in the same corpus. Words are lemmatised beforehand to avoid redundant counts of flections (plurals, verb tenses, cases). TSA then treats lemmas as markers of specific sentiments, according to a predefined lexicon.
The most cited lexicon of this kind is the NRC-EmoLex,47 marking 9383 unigrams and 787 bigrams with the positive/negative polarity and with eight Pluchik's emotions. Its authors argue that Pluchik's set, unlike Ekman's, is not composed of mostly negative emotions and is a superset of Ekman's, itself a superset of Jack's.
The use of a lexicon consisting mainly of unigrams to detect sentiments might be surprising. Among its numerous limitations is the semantic shift48 of word meanings that necessarily occurs over a time span of over 40 years. In their machine learning-based examination of the of such shifts, Hamilton, Leskovec and Jurafsky showed, for instance, how the English term ›awful‹ travels from its 1850s semantic neighbourhood of ›solemn‹ and ›majestic‹ to its 1900s neighbourhood of ›appalling‹ and ›terrible‹.49 Other problems of unigram lexicon-based TSA include negation handling: on 13 February 1922, for instance, the Swiss ambassador in Stockholm wrote that the Scandinavians »suffer from the economic crisis as much as us, and we cannot pretend that we are particularly happy (les Scandinaves souffrent de la crise économique comme nous et on ne peut pas prétendre que nous soyons particulièrement heureux)«;50 the word ›heureux‹ does appear but means its opposite. Another common example is irrealitis: According to the Swiss ambassador in Washington on 17 November 1958, Mr Walter Robertson, Assistant Secretary of Far Eastern Affairs »would much rejoice in getting rid of New Guinea by ceasing it to the Indonesians, if he governed it (s'il régnait sur la Nouvelle Guinée, il serait trop heureux de s'en débarrasser en la cédant aux Indonésiens)«.51 Mr Robertson might have rejoiced in doing so, but he does not govern Indonesia. Further common problems of unigram-based sentiment analysis are listed by Denis, Cruz-Lara and Bellalem.52
Diplomatic language, rich in such wordings, poses a challenge for TSA. Proceeding by word collocation sampling, we found our most emotional lemmas, like ›heureux‹, to be mostly used in an unmodified way in our over 5 million emotionally marked lemmas of our corpus. But we did not find, yet, a systematic method for identifying the proportion of such problematic cases such as negation and irrealitis. Word sense disambiguation techniques by machine learning should offer a solution.
Machine learning approaches consist of ›training‹ a sentiment-detection algorithm. The method's advantage lies in its independence from a general-use, context-unspecific lexicon. It relies instead on the dataset itself, from which a ›training set‹ of texts is extracted and annotated by human analysts. The construction of a training set is accordingly resource demanding. Authors often reach out to pre-tagged databases of texts, such as user reviews that are both textual and ordinal. The Internet Movie Database, for instance, provides user comments associated with an ordinal rating, ranging from one to ten.53 The training itself is based on n-gram frequencies in the training set and can thus be compared to the use of a hidden lexicon. Nevertheless, this hidden lexicon is always, per definition, adapted to the set of texts on which the sentiment detection was trained.
The most used supervised machine learning methods54 in sentiment analysis are Naive Bayes Classification;55 K-Nearest Neighbours; Support Vector Machines, known for performance in word sense disambiguation; Maximum Entropy Classifiers; Random Forest and Multi-Layer Perceptron. In a recent work, Zhang, Zou and Gan used Convolutional Neural Networks combined with Cross-modality Consistent Regression to integrate predefined lexica in the machine learning process. All of these methods are algorithmically elaborate and mostly need an extensive human-annotated training set. This explains why current research in this field remains essentially methodological. Zhang, Zou and Gan, for instance, only apply their method to standard datasets designed for testing sentiment prediction performance56 and conclude that »lexicon embeddings, attention mechanism and CCR are effective in general sentiment analysis«.57 A gap between machine learning and historical research still needs to be bridged. In further work, we endeavour to use this type of methods to construct corpus-oriented sentiment lexica, notably by the use of machine learning-supported word sense induction.58
In this study, we focus on a lexicon-based approach with a predefined lexicon. However, we have felt a need to adjust it.
Adjusting to the Context
A French sentiment lexicon
We developed our analysis algorithms using the R programming language. With regard to algorithmic efficiency, we have used the Quanteda package for R,59 which includes fast methods for the use of custom dictionaries. The aforementioned NRC-EmoLex is directly available in some R packages,60 but it only classifies English lemmas. Our corpus being in French, we base our analysis on the FEEL lexicon61 that includes 14,000 French lemmas and bigrams tagged by polarities and a set of six Ekman emotions: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness and surprise. The FEEL lexicon results from a human-validated automatic translation and expansion to synonyms of the NRC-EmoLex.62 FEEL is, to our knowledge, the most complete general-purpose French sentiment lexicon available at the present date.
In order to use it, we have lemmatised our original corpus at the tokens' level using the LEFFF lexicon63 of ~550,000 French words. We have removed French stopwords.64 In ulterior work, TreeTagger,65 SpaCy66 or UDPipe67 shall be used for higher quality lemmatisation.
Authors, political entities, and sentiment dictionary compilers: the three subjects of sentiment expression
Context adjustment is a difficult task of TSA, especially in lexicon-based approaches. Some authors propose specific lexica for domains like finance.68 Others develop automatised methods for lexicon-adjustment.69 For our purpose, we have manually adjusted the FEEL lexicon, following a preliminary analysis in which we used its original version. We were surprised, in effect, by the most frequent terms in our corpus marked with positive vs. negative polarity in FEEL (Figure 6).
Unsurprisingly, words associated with the exercise of political power occur most frequently in our corpus. Surprisingly, FEEL associates such words with sentiment polarity (Figure 6). To make sense of the lexicon and to define a more solid base for its adjustment, we have decided to distinguish between three types of emotions or, more precisely, between what we shall name the three subject levels of emotional expression. The first two levels reflect what sentiment analysis also defines as subjectivity classification.70 The third one, we introduce.
- Expressions reflecting the feelings of the author(s) of a report. These include ›triste‹ or ›heureusement‹, formulations such as ›de plus en plus‹ (denoting a fear of excess) or negative turns (›non‹, ›ne pas‹).
- Expressions reflecting emotionally shaped states of political entities, such as ›guerre‹, ›crise‹ or ›paix‹. At the level of the author, these lemmas are objective facts, but they definitely indicate a non-neutral disposition on a higher social level. In the context of international diplomacy, military action usually denotes negative mutual disposition. We shall come back to the notion of super-individual emotions in the ›Global Results and Interpretation‹ section.
- Expressions reflecting judgement arbitral or deliberate values of the lexicon's authors. Such include the association of ›communism‹ with fear, anger and a negative polarity; ›gauche‹ and ›conservateur‹ were marked as negative; ›socialisme‹ was marked as positive but was also associated with fear and disgust by FEEL; ›socialiste‹ was marked as positive but was associated with sadness and anger. ›Droite‹, ›nation‹, ›troupe‹, ›militaire‹, ›armer‹, ›soldat‹ and ›catholique‹ were marked as positive; ›gouvernement‹ was marked as positive but associated with fear. For incomprehensible reasons, some country names such as ›Allemage‹ were marked positive while most others were not.›Ministre‹ was marked as positive; ›fascisme‹ was absent from the dictionary.
The value judgements of FEEL's authors raise questions and concerns. Some appear as a mere result of an automatic translation. The English term ›date‹, for instance, is correctly translated to ›date‹ in French, but the many dates mentioned in our corpus hardly carry any romantic connation; its association with joy is a mere misunderstanding. Similarly, an English ›person‹ is correctly translated to ›personne‹, but the lemma then also means ›nobody‹. ›Occupation‹ has twofold meaning both in English and French and is distinguished in German by the terms Beschäftigung and Okupation. Polysemy is a great challenge to sentiments analysis. So is context. The most ›disgusted‹ report71 of our preliminary analysis turned out to be an account for the total revenues from tobacco sales in Cuba in 1924, due to the fact that the FEEL dictionary associates ›cigarettes‹ and ›cigares‹ with disgust. Most striking, however, are the aforementioned value judgements. Some word markings of FEEL, respectively of NRC-Emolex, reflect a pro-religious and homophobic posture. To the discharge of its compilers, we retain that the lexicon results from crowdsourcing, i.e. from the current Zeitgeist of the English-speaking world. History might, some day, treat sentiment lexica themselves as historical documents.
Our aim being to analyse the evolution of sentiments of levels 1 and 2, we have individually examined the 100 most frequent lemmas for each polarity and for each one of the six Ekman emotions and removed all terms of level 3 that reflect judgement values of the lexicon's authors (see Annex for a complete list).
Politeness and sentiment
Finally, as expected, we have observed that 20th century ambassadors make extensive use of elaborate greetings and expressions such as ›j'ai l'honneur de‹, ›veuillez agréer l'hommage de mon respects‹ ›votre excellence‹ and, most frequently, ›assurance de ma considération‹ (18,488 occurrences).
Such turns contain words charged with sentiments of level 1 (respect, honneur, considération) but actually reflect mere adherence to social conventions. It can be argued that all reflect a particular disposition of level 2: diplomatic politeness, whose degrees of emphasis may vary. Interestingly, the choice of terms evolves over time (Figure 7). A full analysis could be dedicated to this topic, since even the slightest variations in polite wordings may carry otherwise unexpressed sentiments of joy or anger. At the present stage, however, we have combined such expressions into compound n-grams without emotional value.
Sentiment scores and their global distribution
In textual statistics, simply measuring the proportion of lemmas associated with a specific sentiment is not enough. The FEEL lexicon associates more of its terms with positive feelings than, for instance, with the negative ones. This unequal distribution would induce a strong statistical bias, since counting occurrence of lemmas associated with each sentiment would reflect the relative frequencies of sentiments in the lexicon itself, not their relative frequencies in a given text. The sentiment scores (e. g. Sp = Scorepositive or Sn = Scorenegative) are therefore adjusted as follows:
- Tp = count of all positive tokens in a given text
- Tn = count of all negative tokens in a given text
- T∀ = count of all tokens in the text
- Lp = count of all lexicon entries marked as positive
- Ln = count of all lexicon entries marked as negative
We have applied the same adjustment to all six Ekman emotions. A compound indicator taking into account both positive and negative polarities is defined as
compound = Sp –Sn
In the upcoming graphics, Sp shall be referred as positive and Sn as negative.
For the sentiment scores thus defined, we observe a normal distribution across texts, with varying mean values and standard deviations (Figure 8). This is encouraging for a statistical interpretation of our results. The expression of positive sentiments dominates, followed by joy and surprise. The least proportion of texts expresses negative sentiments and sentiments of disgust.
Global Results and Interpretation
We present our detailed results in the section ›individual cases‹. Globally, we observe that sentiments can be organised into three groups. The first two, negative sentiments (negative, anger, fear and sadness) (Figure 12) and positive sentiments (positive, compound and joy) (Figure 20), display strong intragroup correlation. This means that an analysis in terms of positive and negative polarities is adapted for our purpose, and we shall concentrate on it in further work. In other words, in our context, the Ekman emotions mainly explicate the meaning of these polarities, without yielding more differentiated insight. Joy should be considered a heightened and probably more subjective positive emotion. Anger, fear and sadness combine into a general negative feeling. The third group, encompassing sentiments of disgust and surprise (Figure 19), shall be treated very briefly.
The historic background
Before all interpretation, we need to set our results against a general historic background. The major known events between 1920 and 1960, most of which verify by text mining of our corpus, include the world economic crisis in the late 1920s (Figure 9), early Fascism, later Nazism in the 1930s (Figure 10), the Second World War and post-war economic reconstruction (Figure 11) and the beginning of the Cold War in the 1950s. For the US, the evolution of the mood was different: Fascism and Nazism did not directly affect Washington until the 1940s when the US supported the Allies and entered the war, and post-war economic development took a different course than that of war-torn Europe, whose reconstruction was funded significantly by the US under the Marshall Plan. On the other hand, the highly industrialised Japan, politically part of the Axis powers, was presumably subject to similar basic moods as Europe.73 Japan suffered similar devastation during the war as Europe did, worsened by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in addition to the shame about the defeat and occupation of the country by the Americans.
The theoretical background: places as synthetic subjects of sentiments
In psychology, the usual subjects of emotions are human individuals, observed in a precise moment. In our case, we are dealing with aggregate emotions of entire sets of political reports, written by multiple authors at different dates. The ontological gap between parts and the whole that we cross in this manner requires caution. While we do provide excerpts of individual political reports to support our detailed analysis, the reader must keep in mind that no single text can fully illustrate the aggregate phenomenon of a statistical regularity. Expecting the contrary would resemble predicting a human's behaviour from the observation of his or her individual cells.
We argue that aggregate subjects of emotions do exist. In fact, as we have discussed in earlier work, the acting subject of any action, including sentiment expression, is always a synthetic individual.74 In our case, we aggregate reports based on the place and time of writing. Sentiments expressed by these sets of political reports are the sentiments of these sets, not sentiments of isolated documents and, a fortiori, not sentiments of an isolated author. Even at a single report level, the sentiment of a document is the result of a particular synthesis of:
- a human author
- oselected as ambassador for particular abilities by an institution
- ▪representing Switzerland
- ▪having its own interests
- ▪representing interests of third parties (1939– 1945)
- oconsciously writing to that institution
- ▪of which he possesses an own inner representation
- oassisted by a personnel producing text drafts and modules
- oselected as ambassador for particular abilities by an institution
- a given context of writing
- oin a given place
- ▪in which the author has been living for 1–3 years75
- oat a given time
- ▪marked by a set of current geopolitical concerns
- oin a given place
- a specific subject matter
- oidentified as important by the author
- othat has triggered the writing of the report
The advantage of aggregating sentiments of multiple documents is that we progressively leave the level of subject matters and authors to find the aggregate sentiments of institutions, epochs and places, which are only revealed in the aggregate. This is all the more significant if we recall that the reports were sent regularly to the FDFA in Berne serve to inform the government about the international situation and thus are the basis for making foreign and security policy decisions, acting not as an individual but as a nation-state. The reports permit feeling like a state.76
Throughout the history of the administration, synthetic sentiments translate into synthetic actions. This process gives a nice illustration of the old notion of Wirkungszusammenhang,77 more recently reappeared under the terms of agencement (assemblage) in the Deleuze and Guattari's writings on Kafka.78
Thus, the earlier mentioned stance, according to which »the person shapes the activity«79 might hold, but only insofar as we keep in mind that the activity and its context also shape the person. All individuals, be the aggregate or personified, are the result of synthesis.
In our case, a fourth, easily forgotten actant intervenes:
- the sentiment lexicon itself
- oproduced by a specific scientific method
- ▪applied to a specific set of data
- oproduced by a specific scientific method
- produced by human actors
- oembedded in a specific epoch and cultural context
- ▪partially verified by a set of human actors
- oembedded in a specific epoch and cultural context
- embedded in a specific epoch and cultural context
- otranslated by a machine
With regard this fourth actant, we must stress to which point word–sentiment associations strongly vary with the selection of a lexicon's contributors. Our manual adjustment of the FEEL lexicon seeks to limit observation to sentiments proper to subjects of levels 1 (author and subject matter) and 2 (context and institution).
The relation between the three subject levels of sentiment expression and the synthetic subject
As suggested, there is a direct correspondence between our fourth actant and sentiment expressions of level 3 (judgement arbitral of the lexicon's authors). What we have defined as level 1 (›joie‹, ›tristesse‹, etc.) and 2 (›guerre‹, ›crise‹, etc.) of sentiment expression could allow us to distinguish the part played by single human authors in the synthesis of sentiment scores of documents or document aggregates. Methodologically, however, making this latter distinction would imply a total revision of the more than 10,000 terms of the FEEL dictionary, which we could not accomplish at this stage; thus, our sentiment scores do not account for it. We shall keep track of these levels, however, in our interpretation of individual cases.
For an interpretation of the quantitative analysis of the political reports, we have selected six countries, respectively capitals: Great Britain (London), France (Paris), Italy (Rome), Sweden (Stockholm), Japan (Tokyo) and the US (Washington). This allows us to analyse cities on three continents, while concentrating on locations from where records are available with sufficient dating precision for the whole time of observation (cf. Figure 4). We start with negative sentiments.
A first general observation shows that the range of negative feelings before and after World War II is significantly smaller than that during the war. Their frequency reaches its maxima between 1940 and 1944. Mathematically, this can be due to either a frequency decline in positively connoted lemmas or a frequency rise in the negatively connoted ones. Historically, we assume that it relates to anxiety and the negative horizons of expectation during wartimes.
Figure 13 gives better insight into rise of negative sentiments in the 1940–1944 period, by showing the obvious contribution of the negative lemma ›guerre‹ and associated terms ›troupe‹, ›armer‹ and ›militaire‹. It is striking that, according to our three subject levels of emotional expression defined earlier, the most influent sentiments cannot be attributed to the level of authors' reports (1) but to the level of political entities (2). This does not mean that the ambassadors never express personal-level sentiments, as illustrate documents found for Tokyo. TSA allowed us to detect the most negatively marked text from that Embassy (or Legation, as an Embassy was called then). It was headed by Camille Gorgé, a lawyer and the Envoyé extraordinaire et ministre plénipotentiaire of Switzerland in Japan.80 In his telegram No 476 on 29 December 29 1944, he let the Foreign Ministry in Berne (the Federal Political Department, as it was called that time) know that Japan ends badly (»finit mal«): People [are] deprived of everything without illusions (»peuple privé de tout sans illusions«); they are suffering from hunger and cold (»souffre de la faim et du froid«). The ambassador describes the economic situation [as] still lamentable (»situation économique toujours lamentable«) and the increased discomfort due to train traffic disruptions caused by aerial bombardments and recent earthquake (»malaise accru par perturbations du trafic ferroviaire
causées par bombardements aériens et récent tremblement de terre«). But not only the American bombardments from the air test the population (»raids aériens éprouvent la population«) but also the hope for a victory of the Axis powers dwindles: The defeat seems inevitable (»défaite semblant inevitable«).81
Nine months later, on September 1945, after the defeat of Japan, Gorgé sent a telegram to Berne, which was also very emotional; it reflects Japan's sadness. The Swiss ambassador reports on his meeting with the new foreign minister: He has not much illusion about the difficulties for Japan to win back international esteem (»II ne se fait pas beaucoup d'illusions sur les difficultés pour le Japon de reconquérir l'estime internationale«). The position of the government is extremely precarious because it depends entirely on Americans (»La position du gouvernement est d'ailleurs extrêmement précaire car elle dépend entièrement des américains«). Gorgé is amazed at the ease with which the Japanese suffer their extremely humiliating fate (»On est toujours plus étonné de la facilité avec laquelle les japonais subissent leur sort extrêmement humiliant«).82
Relating back to the question of the subject of emotion (author or political entity),83 we are clearly situated on the level of the individual. Several factors explain the elevated indices of negative emotions in end-of-war Tokyo. First of all the extreme conditions, of course, though similar ones have not lead envoys in other war-torn cities of that time to a comparable passion. More decisive seems Gorgé's ability and willingness to express sentiments, induced by a specific culture of the French-speaking diplomats of 1920s and 1930s versed in art and literature.84 That TSA allowed us to detect Gorgé's texts, without prior knowledge about his career, could have an interesting explanation. As stated in our introduction, TSA is notably developed in literature science. Its detection of sentiments relies on the extensive use of adjectives, adverbs and emotionally coloured substantives; such are less frequent in a more cautious writing, which might, nevertheless, express emotion by circumlocution and understatement that fall under the radar of current TSA methods. A hypothesis attested by the global decline of the proportion of sentiment-marked lemma (Figure 14) is that the professionalisation of Swiss diplomacy has reinforced such cautious language, modifying the ›emotional habitus‹85 of its members. Further inquiry in this direction shall consider the proportion of adjectives, adverbs and lemmas with a high subjectivity classification (cf. supra), as well as the global convergence of these values across different embassies.
These observations raise many questions: To what degree do an ambassador's personal feelings influence relations between political entities in general and between Japan and Switzerland specifically? Gorgé probably identified too strongly with his host country, which might explain why he had to leave Japan and was sent to Turkey in 1946.86
But let us proceed to a second example, in which the aggregate level of the political entity becomes more apparent. Surprisingly, the document with the most violent rash in terms of negativity, fear, grief and anger is a report on Sweden from the 1928 to 1932 period. Actually, it reveals the strength of the socialist movements in Sweden in the late 1920s and 1930s in comparison to other Western countries,87 something that seemed to disturb Swiss diplomacy deeply.
Switzerland and Sweden had a long tradition of good relations. Since 1847, the Swiss consulate in Christiania (Oslo) was also responsible for Sweden. The first Swiss consulate in Sweden was established at Stockholm in 1887. For a longer time, the head of the Swiss diplomatic mission in Berlin was also responsible for Sweden. The diplomatic relations were upgraded in 1919 with a Swiss envoy to Stockholm. In 1957, the legation was transformed into an embassy. The two countries made similar experiences during the World War II: Both were neutral, both economically and financially dependent on relations with both the Allies and Nazi Germany. The Allies even addressed common questions in a Sweden– Swiss Committee. As Sweden and Switzerland faced new challenges during the Cold War, the two countries moved even closer. Foreign Ministries agreed on a regular mutual exchange of views in the 1950s.88
The cultural relations between Switzerland and Sweden were close as well. Schiller's William Tell was translated into Swedish in 1823. Both countries exchanged films during the war. In Switzerland, Swedish lifestyle (home furnishing, books, travel) became very popular after World War II. In Sweden, Switzerland was sometimes seen as a model for the future constitution of Europe,89 whereas in Switzerland, many thought Sweden to be a modern model society.
Given this narrative of the tight and good relations between both countries, it astonishes that the document from our corpus with the second-most violent rash in terms of negativity, fear, grief and anger, after the Tokyo reports, is the aforementioned report90 on Sweden from the 1928 to 1932 period. Frequency D analysis for this period (Figure 16) shows a relative rise of negatively connoted lemmas such as crisis (›crise‹), unemployment (›chomâge‹), radical (›radicale‹) and extreme.
Obviously, the negativity of the reports relates to an economic crisis. But what does the Swiss embassy in Stockholm deem as radical and extreme in this context? This question can be answered by representing the semantic network of word co-occurrence in the documents from that place and period (Figures 17 and 18). The figures show not only negative and positive expressions but also their neighbouring lemmas, notably ›socialiste‹, ›ouvrier‹, ›communiste‹ and ›gauche‹. Co-occurrent terms are connected by network edges and closer to each other. Based on them, we can hypothesise that the strengthening of the labour movement in Sweden worried Swiss diplomacy. The Socialist Workers' Party (›parti‹, ›socialiste‹, ›ouvrier‹) taking over government power in Sweden (›pouvoir‹, ›gouvernement‹) seems a development that Switzerland did not follow politically and socially. This would also explain why, after World War II, Switzerland's idealised image faded and criticism became loud. Swedish authors like Arvid Brenner scourged in particular a reckless capitalism in Switzerland.91
Disgust and surprise
Disgust and surprise (Figure 19) mostly correlate with negative sentiments and provide no extra information. We see no specific added value of these sentiment categories – as implicitly defined by their associated word set in the FEEL lexicon – for the analysis of our dataset. Based on our observation, we do not recommend their use for analysis similar to ours.
One curve of evolution of the positive sentiments (Figure 20) immediately stands out: Values for Washington are falling sharply during World War II, remain at a very low level for a while and then rise again after the war (A). Lemmas such as ›croire‹ and ›foi‹ occur less often then (Figure 21), suggesting a loss of mutual confidence. Upon the background of historical knowledge,92 the interpretation seems quite simple: The Americans criticised Switzerland because of its close economic and financial ties to Nazi Germany. They blocked Swiss assets in the US and blacklisted Swiss companies. The tensions did not settle until 1946, when the Washington Agreement offered a basis for good post-war relations. The joy of this success of Swiss diplomacy seems visible in Figure 20. Yet, we did not find more specific terms related to these events in our corpus with text-mining techniques (Figures 9–11). We venture the suggestion that these events had a deeper, more ›subconscious‹ effect on the tone of the reports of the Swiss embassy in Washington: The more frequent use of negative turns involving words like ›contre‹ or ›malgré‹ might be a sign of this.
As much interesting are the joy scores for Stockholm that decline rapidly during the 1930s (Figure 20B), stay at a low level during the forties and decline again after the war (Figure 20C), almost in a mirrored image of the assessment for Figure 12. This points historians interested in relations between Switzerland and Sweden to possibly relevant sources for describing these relationships while socialist forces increasingly determined politics in Sweden. In addition, it raises a question similar to the case of Tokyo: To what degree do the Swiss ambassador's feelings influence relations
between Sweden and Switzerland? What role did the socialist turn play in the reports for a country with which Switzerland felt strongly connected? Did the professionalisation of diplomacy improve these relations?
Positive sentiment scores for London are consistently elevated. The same applies to Paris and Rome. In effect, literature also attests for good relations between Switzerland and its direct geographical neighbours, France and Italy.93 Our results suggest that these relations were hardly affected by the French Vichy regime and the Italian fascist government. To verify this, historians could turn to the individual sources identified by the algorithms of the sentiment analysis – something that we cannot do here.
In all cases, caution in such interpretations is important. It is, for instance, worth taking a closer look at the big joy in London (Figure 22). The terms that contribute to this result are notably good (›bien‹), create (›créer‹), success, interest and beneficial (›favorable‹). They could signal both good bilateral relations and a potentially favourable economic situation. To determine what was really meant, the individual reports should be consulted to answer more specific questions: When did the roaring 20s come to an end in the UK? How did this affect the bilateral relations with Switzerland, which in general remained rather consistently good?
In our approach, we have applied a most basic method of sentiment analysis, relying on a precompiled and manually edited sentiment lexicon. Yet, we observe variations in sentiment expression over the course of time, which correlate with historical events. Local specificities can be observed as well.
Sentiment analysis contributed most to our knowledge about sentiments in the administration by identifying the Tokyo reports with strikingly strong sentimental expression over a large set of documents. This identification opens perspective for further focused research on the personal role of the Swiss ambassador in Tokyo for shaping bilateral relations.
In the case of 1930s documents from Stockholm, the method proved itself useful in identifying moments of important social change and giving insight into the interpretation of these events by the Swiss administration.
We can expect emotions expressed by individuals in an administrative apparatus to reflect political or historical events, as much as the other way around. In this respect, it is possible to more closely examine Keller's statement, whereas »the person shaped the activity«.94 The analysis of such emotions can contribute to a history of the administration that is not only the history of the rationality of an institutional order, as Max Weber stressed. For a history with diplomatic and administrative practices in its focus, it should be possible then to detect special events, respectively the feelings they evoke against the backdrop of the prevailing mood for each country.
Of course, despite our efforts to eliminate contemporary judgement values, the sentiments observed by our method appear at the interface of 20th century subjects and a 21st century lexicon. Lexicon-based TSA always projects a sentimental ontology of its contemporary context of compilation on past documents. This has not only the obvious risk of an anachronistic interpretation but also the interest of revealing the comparative particularities of the past document's language. In effect, at least since the 19th century hermeneutics, we know that all forms of text interpretation carry a bias induced by the difference between the world from which they are interpreted and the world in which they were composed. In an algorithmic approach, this historical bias is stronger, because fixated in a lexicon, but is also much more explicit. While it is difficult to know what values a historian associates with given expressions during her interpretation, her lexicon reveals exactly what values have been attributed by her interpretation algorithm. This suggests work focused on the construction of place-and time-specific sentiment lexica as a heuristic method in history. The association of lemmas with sentiments in such lexica, considered in its historical dynamic, could give us a framework for specifying semantic shifts and, through these, the evolution of the world of sentiments. We have identified how corpus-based lexicon construction and machine learning methods for word sense induction could offer a methodological solution to do so.
In further work, beyond the benefit of the discovery of significant phases in bilateral diplomatic relations, TSA could also help to detect the fingerprint of authors in aggregated (political) reports that are the base for decisions of the administration and the government. We endeavour to achieve this by a more systematic distinction between the first- and the second-level subject of emotion expression in the sentiment lexicon.
Generally, we believe that TSA offers a powerful instrument for an evidence-based, empirically funded historiography. Bridging distant and close reading in historical science, it contributes to the closure of the old historiographical gap between history focused on individual action and history focused on structural phenomena, by considering historical subjects of emotions on multiple scales and bringing the individual into perspective without losing sight of the aggregate.
Last but not the least, the description and interpretation of administrative practices on a new empirical basis can help to make the administrative history of Switzerland more visible and increase understanding of how the administration works.
Annex : Top 100 Words per Sentiment
The following tables give frequencies of the top 100 words for each emotion, ordered by frequency in the corpus. In strikethrough, words that we removed from the original feel dictionary prior to analysis are listed.
Positive, joy, surprise and disgust
|5||ministre||49,981||obtenir||12,580||travail||1 7 , 5 2 9||étranger||18,438|
Negative, fear, Sadness and anger