Analysing Timelines of National Histories Across Wikipedia Editions: A Comparative Computational Approach
Portrayals of history are never complete, and each description inherently exhibits a specific viewpoint and emphasis. In this paper, we aim to automatically identify such differences by computing timelines and detecting temporal focal points of written history across languages on Wikipedia. In particular, we study articles related to the history of all UN member states and compare them in 30 language editions. We develop a computational approach that allows to identify focal points quantitatively, and find that Wikipedia narratives about national histories (i) are skewed towards more recent events (recency bias) and (ii) are distributed unevenly across the continents with significant focus on the history of European countries (Eurocentric bias). We also establish that national historical timelines vary across language editions, although average interlingual consensus is rather high. We hope that this paper provides a starting point for a broader computational analysis of written history on Wikipedia and elsewhere.