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This article argues that historians have failed to grasp the profound opportunities afforded by computational analysis. Despite the abundance of machine-readable data liberated by digitisation—alongside tools and exemplar studies—there has been no widespread embrace of text mining or revival of cliometrics. This ambivalence has arisen mainly through apathy and side-lining of computational analysis to a specialist methodological niche. The absence of justification is damaging to the intellectual vitality of the discipline and its capacity to face the dawning age of data science.
The article calls for an urgent debate about the historian and the computer. More than anything else, this requires sceptics to come forward to meet the advocates to discuss how we face the future. British political history has a proud tradition of methodological innovation and there is no better subfield in which to begin a debate that has fundamental implications for the whole discipline.