Analysing Margaret Thatcher’s appointment diaries using relational hyperevent models

John Mowbray, Juergen Lerner, Alessandro Lomi, Neil Rollings, Mark Tranmer


Appointment diaries have existed as historical sources since the mid-nineteenth century, and are now commonly used. Such records regularly appear in the private papers of individuals - such as politicians, civil servants, business people, and academics. Our research project appropriates historical appointment diaries of politicians as sources of network data. Here we present results from an early case study: Margaret Thatcher’s appointments with cabinet ministers during her first term as British Prime Minister (May-79 to June-83). Meeting events were analysed using the relational hyperevent model (RHEM) framework. RHEMs are a generalisation of relational event models which can be used to identify relational patterns in multi-actor interaction networks. In this case, meeting events where one, several, or all cabinet ministers were in attendance are treated as undirected hyperedges. We modelled for effects such as repetition on hyperedges, sub-repetition on groups (or individual nodes) within hyperedges, and closure. We also incorporated a covariate to distinguish effects for parliamentary “wets” and “dries” - the former being ministers who were generally hostile to Thatcher’s hard-line policies, the latter generally favourable. By discussing our key findings, we seek to demonstrate how this approach to diary analysis can be used to extend or complement knowledge of political networks.

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