I’ve been playing around with the Google Labs NGram book viewer, and you can do some pretty big picture stuff with it.
I mean really big picture: As the NYTimes reported, Its a “mammoth database culled from nearly 5.2 million digitized books available to the public for free downloads and online searches, opening a new landscape of possibilities for research and education in the humanities . . . It consists of the 500 billion words contained in books published between 1500 and 2008 in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian.”
Just punching in a few key terms over the past century yields some pretty interesting results:
Main Street vs Wall Street (1920-2008)
Wall Street seems to get mentioned more after massive crashes — 1929, 2000 (above)
Check out the Deflation focus around 1930s, and the Inflation focus in the 1970s thru 80s:
Inflation vs Deflation(1920-2008)
The peak interest in Gold was around 1935, and rising again in 200s — with Oil getting lots of buzz around WWII and the 1980s.
Gold vs Oil (1920-2008)
England completely dominated for centuries:
Uh-oh, there is a new kid int he neighborhood :
Russia,Germany,China,England, United States (1700-2008)
Here’s a fascinating one, from 1500–2008 — were those 17th and 18th century mentions of Jews all anti-semitic remarks? (or did we Jews certainly start publishing more books?)