An Accidental Analysis
Throughout the Egyptian Gazette, accidents are a recurring topic with a wide variety of types, severities, and locations, with different events getting different levels of attention and description. This group analysis project investigates accidents reported in the Egyptian Gazette at the turn of the 20th century through several different lenses. These lenses can be broken into three main categories: 1) Investigating particular types of accidents: fires, ships and railways; 2) Investigating the language around accidents: linguistic descriptors and emotions portrayed; and 3) Investigating the locations of reported accidents. These three categories come together to create a broad encompassing analysis of accidents reported in the Egyptian Gazette from 1905-1907.
Fire-related accidents is one of the chosen subtopics of this project. Data about this topic was made into a visualization and compared side-to-side with one another to easily discern patterns in the data such as what times of the year fire accidents were frequently reported. These patterns were then analyzed to estimate what could have caused these increased frequencies of fire accident reports. The ability of the fire brigade to fight these fires was also examined and what effect this what effect this ability or inability would have had on the peace of mind of people in Alexandria at the time. In my analysis I found that there was an increased number of fires during the summer and winter seasons. This pattern could be the result of a number of factors, but I think a sensible conclusion would be that the warm summer temperatures directly caused more fires and the cold temperatures and less daylight of winter caused people to light fireplaces and candles more often, thus indirectly causing more fires. This subtopic directly relates to the overall topic, the social history of accidents in Alexandria, because it involves the gathering of data about a specific type of accident and attempts to look at the subtopic from the point of view of someone living in Alexandria at the time.
There are quite a few ship accidents that happen, considering the fact that Egypt exports and imports many goods. Most of these accidents are collisions involving one ship sinking, but there are several that involve two or more ships. Regardless, this type of accident is usually worth reporting to the general public. However, the Egyptian Gazette does not always immediately report on these incidents. A lot of the reports reach the Gazette through telegrams, but often times it takes more than just several days to form and publish an article. I made a scatterplot depicting the relationship between geographical distance between Cairo and the location of the incident and the time it took for the Egyptian Gazette to report on the incident. My hope in making this graph was that there would be a visible pattern in the results that will allow me to infer something about the way these incidents are reported or how information spread at the time. If the correlation between distance and speed was strong and positive, it would mean that the methods of communication used were not very efficient. If there was little or no correlation, then the information spread fast enough for distance to not affect the effectiveness of communication. The correlation for the line of best fit for this scatterplot was very weak, with the R2 value being 0.079. Because of this, I concluded that the time it takes to publish an article is not correlated with the physical distance between Cairo and the incident. This lack of correlation relates to social history because it could be a good representation of how information spread in the early 20th century. Obviously, the spread of information was much slower in that time period compared to now, but the technology had advanced enough for the spread of information to be unaffected by distance.
Throughout the Egyptian Gazette, there are many instances of reported railway accidents. To analyze this type of accident, I formed a data set of 32 rail-related accidents reported in the newspaper from 1905-1907. Using this data, I investigated the geographical locations, the types of accidents, and the monthly prevalence of these railway accidents. To analyze the geographical locations, I mapped all the reported rail accidents. This revealed that the overwhelming majority, 26 out of 32, of the reported accidents occurred in Egypt. Internationally reported events often involved royalty, or someone else of wealth, or was a dramatically tragic event, such as the death of dozens or of a child. Within my data set, I found four main types of accidents reported on: those caused by a crash, derailment, unfastened door, or, the most prevalent of those reported, someone being run over. Monthly prevalence of these events did not follow any apparent trend, either proof of an incomplete data set or a lack of correlation between the time of the year and prevalence of accidents. Through my research, particularly looking at the distinctions in how railway-caused deaths were reported, I found what appeared to be a significant class distinction. Events relating to the upper-class often got notable publicity and detailed writing, while those relating to the working-class and others did not receive the same coverage, often reported very briefly.
One aspect that can be used to describe accidents is the linguistic descriptions of the accidents within the Egyptian Gazette. I searched for the word “accident” in XML with restrictions to headers with “head.” This resulted in 145 items. Since I was looking at the language and at different terms, I didn’t actually find a perfect way to query for the descriptions of the accidents. The results of the accident query were put into Atom and the data was then cut down to just those descriptions before the word “accident” and put them into a word cloud and used Tableau’s charts. The data given shows what type of language the newspaper uses the most to draw attention or to give readers a sense of tragedy or shock. Fatal, railway, motor, and tram were amongst the highest in frequency. This shows that accidents were mostly described as near-death and impactful, possibly attract more readers to the story and signal to them an interesting subject. Categorization among these terms between type (railway, motor, etc) and description (fatal, etc) would possibly give more about what type of accident occurs more and perhaps needs more safety regulations. The top 25 recurring words were taken (which is where the frequency of words for headlines is more than one). The top 25 recurring words for headlines versus whole paragraphs showed only four that corresponded.
“Train” and “railway” are a couple of the top words for paragraphs, “fatal”, “railway”, “motor”, and “tram” were top words for headlines. Fatal may be a signal descriptor for readers to look for when reading about accidents and their results. The top words also show that there is a high probability that most recurring accidents are firstly train accidents and secondly motor accidents. The top words matching words were “cairo”, “injured”, “railway”, and “train” show again that train accidents occur the most and are presented most frequently, and mostly occur in Cairo. Cairo is possibly the most talked about area and/or the area with the most accidents- maybe the most with train accidents. “Injured” shows that maybe readers are mostly specifically looking for the results of accidents and how they affect people.
The emotions of the people involved in the accidents was not explained in great detail throughout the “Egyptian Gazette”. However, there are some emotions shown in relation to accidents. Fear was the most common emotion word I found in relation to accidents. The history or emotions is hard to analyze especially when very few emotions are portrayed through newspaper articles. Within the articles that contained both an emotion, such as fear or shock, and an accident, I found that there was little importance placed on the emotion. The articles gave more focus to the accident itself. Even when the accidents were more extreme, or “nearly fatal” the people were only fearful or anxious. The emotions were not that intense but were all negative.
The accidents that the “Egyptian Gazette” reported on occurred in a wide variety of locations across the globe. The most common locations were Cairo, London, Alexandria, and Liverpool. This makes sense because Cairo was the largest and most important city in Egypt, Alexandria was the home of the newspaper, and London and Liverpool were the two most prominent cities in England. The “Egyptian Gazette” catered to a largely British audience, being as it was an English language newspaper and Egypt was a British Protectorate. There was also a substantial amount of accidents that occurred in the Nile River Delta, Britain as a whole, and the Middle East, which makes sense because these regions are geographically closest to Alexandria. There was also a small amount of reporting on accidents in North America and Eastern Asia, especially India. Notably absent from the data are Australia, South America, Western Africa, and the Siberian region. This is likely due to the fact that these regions of the world were not as industrialized at the time.
As seen through these six lenses, accidents were a common occurrence reported on in the Egyptian Gazette and their effects and other implications can be demonstrated by the way they are reported throughout the newspaper in the years 1905-1907 in Alexandria, Egypt.