The Aged in History Past–Classroom assignment using digital tools or technology

What did people in Enlightenment era think of aged people? In an era when progress, human perfectibility, development, and above all, reason prevailed, how do contemporaries understood aged people who decline into physical or mental “decay”?

  • Summary of Assignment:

This assignment is designed to help you learn how to conduct a history data research in order to answer some of the questions we’ve been asking this semester about the representation of the aged and cultural understanding of old age, especially thinking in terms of the cognition and the concept of “selfhood” in Enlightenment era. First, you’ll learn firsthand how to search for materials in early modern era and how to effectively find sources you need out of hundreds of thousands of documents. Then you’ll try out a text mining tool to (maybe) pick out an interesting pattern in those documents.

  • Goal:
  1. Learn how to search for primary source
    1. To search for primary texts (ECCO, EBBO, Mind as Metaphor)
    2. To come up with fitting keywords
  2. Try out digital tools that incorporates an analysis (Voyant)
  3. Think about what you discovered in the connection to the idea of cognition and selfhood and ultimately what it says about cultural understanding of old age.
  • Assignment:

First, read Ch 3. The New Science: Aging and Agency, Age and Identity in Eighteenth-Century England  by Helen Yallop and summarize key points she makes about the agency of the aged in Eighteenth-Century Britain and select 10 vocabulary that epitomizes eighteenth-century contemporaries’ understanding of the aged (ex. definition, metaphor, etc: “old and poor,” debilitated, “idiocy,” “storehouse” of wisdom, “dependency,” “gout,” etc. ) Also mark three early modern texts mentioned in the book you find interesting or think most significant while reading.

Second, utilize the primary search digital tools such as ECCO or EBBO. Search for three texts and type in the keywords you found. What are the result? Are you seeing any pattern? Also, if you’d like, type in some keywords in Mind as Metaphor database. What are some synonyms or overarching concepts that appear?

Third, pick out about 1000 words from primary text that includes some of the keywords and run it through Voyant. What do you see there? What do these pattern challenge/support/complicate what we’ve been discussing so far? Does it match what Yallop is saying?

Finally, post one or two critical question using padlet.


EBBO (Early English Books Online)

ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online)

Mind as a Metaphor





  • Things I learned + Things could be incorporated

Padlet & Voice Thread

Different (fun!) adaptations (ex. poetry, drawings, comics, films, writings, screenplay, script, etc.)–explanation for chosen medium.

Wikipedia analysis: using voyant

Using movie script/letters/literary works and analyzing it to voyant

Twine game

Chronology time

Why important question!