German History the Google Way

Previously I looked at the number of times different 4-digit sequences of numbers starting with ‘1’ appear in English-language books published in the year 2000. I took statistics from Google and looked at the number of times the digits ‘1491’ appeared versus ‘1492’. Obviously not all 4-digit numbers are references to years, so I simply dropped numbers that are evenly divisible by 10.

Google offers statistics for books published in a variety of languages, so I have repeated my analysis using values from the German-language books that Google has scanned.

The graph below shows the frequency of 4-digit numbers in German-language works. Number after 1700 are much more frequent than those before 1700, so to make things easy to read, I have put the y-axis on a logarithmic scale.


(click image to enlarge)

As in the case with English-language books, some values make a little blip on the graph. ‘1648’ is more common than ‘1647’ or ‘1649’, probably because that was the year that The Thirty Years’ War ended. (The number ‘1618’ is more common than ‘1617’, but for some reason ‘1619’ is more common than either ‘1618’ or ‘1617’.)

I have marked some other numbers that look interesting. Some are easy to explain, but others are not.

For example, we see ‘1492’ again, though it is much less prominent than was the case for English-language books. Some other numbers that are common in English-language books are also hard to see here – ‘1066’, for example’, and ‘1776’. Some others that I would expect, like ‘1517’, the year that Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation, and ‘1989’, the fall of the Berlin Wall, do not stand out either.

Some of the values are difficult to understand their importance, like ‘1408’ and ‘1711’. I don’t know anything important that happened in central Europe in those years. In fact, all of the 1700s seem to be a time when nothing important happened in German-speaking lands, which I find strange given that it was the time of Bach, Mozart, Euler and Goethe. But ‘1848’, a year of revolutions in much of Europe, including Germany, is easy to see, as are ‘1789’ and ‘1815’.

In numbers that start with ’19’, important ones obviously include ‘1914’ and ‘1918’, which were the start and end of the First World War, ‘1933’, the year that the Nazis came to power and of course Germans are interested in ‘1945’, which is famous for being the last year that the Cubs made it to the World Series.

Overall though, I find it rather depressing how many of the references, like with English-language texts, seem to be to wars and revolutions.


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