Toward Understanding 17th Century English Culture: A Structural Topic Model of Francis Bacon's Ideas

Peter Grajzl and Peter Murrell, Journal of Comparative Economics (47), 111-135, March .


We use machine-learning methods to study the features and origins of the ideas of Francis Bacon, a key figure who provided the intellectual roots of a cultural paradigm that spurred modern economic development. Bacon's works are the data in an estimation of a structural topic model, a recently developed methodology for analysis of text corpora. We provide the first quantitative evidence that the genesis of Bacon's epistemology lies in his experience in the common-law. Combining our findings with accepted arguments in the existing literature, we suggest that the effects of common law culture can help explain the coincidence of early political and economic development in England.

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