IPHS 300: Artificial Intelligence for the Humanities: Text, Image, and Sound

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2021


Since the days of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, credited as being the author of the first great narrative history, the field of history has been a distinctly human craft. The rise of the GPT-2 language model, however, presents a new and exciting question: can a transformer-based language model write history? The answer, as demonstrated by my findings, is complicated. History is both subjective and constantly changing. There are multiple schools of thought — such as cultural history, social history, environmental history, and economic history — each with conflicting methodologies as to how history is to be written and understood. This presents a significant challenge to a so-called “GPT-2 Historian,” as this language model would need to have a thorough understanding of the past and be able to synthesize this understanding into a coherent flow of thought. Accordingly, a GPT-2 Historian risks contradictions and logical fallacies in its historical writing. However, my previous experience with GPT-2 has demonstrated that it is capable of replicating elements of writing style as well as occasionally generating a decently coherent flow of thought. With this in mind, I will now explore GPT-2’s potential to produce original historical writing after being fed three full-length history dissertations discussing different aspects of the life and times of the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. After being fed these dissertations, how well can a “GPT-2 Historian” write its own history of the Rough Rider?

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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