All Quiet on the Wikipedia Front?

Wikipedia is in a position of influence for how people learn about history, but how do the Battles of Arras (1914, 1917 and 1918) differ across the site? What do the edits and page changes tell us about these battles and how different countries see them differently?

The English 1917 page dominates on edits and editors

However the longest 1917 page isn’t in English, and more languages have a page for the 1918 battle – some of whom (TA = Tamil) have never made an entry before.

More visualisations:
All Edits (no English)
All Edits (1914)
All Edits (1917)
All Edits (1918)
Document length (grouped by battle)
The Excel Sheets used to make these graphs

All of these statistics are from April 2 2012.

Cite : All Quiet on the Wikipedia Front? ( by Pat Lockley ( licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales (

Reuse : Web link

About Pat Lockley

I helped to develop this site's structure and elements of the theme. I worked to develop a series of visualisations and open data resources for this site and to help approach World War One from new perspectives More examples of my work exist on my website
This entry was posted in From Space to Place, The Battle of Arras, The Memory of War and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to All Quiet on the Wikipedia Front?

  1. Pingback: Donkeys leading lions leading donkeys | World War One Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings

  2. Hi Pat – Thanks for this, really interesting perspective.

    I was just trying to reproduce your results with a view to digging deeper into the Wikipedia editing process and what’s behind these articles, but I’ve fallen at the first hurdle.

    So far as I can tell, the lengths of the English Wikipedia articles are as follows:
    : – 52989 characters (though complicated that Battle of Vimy Ridge is a separate, long, article in its own right, which will duplicated Arras 1917 in its own right)
    : – 4360 characters
    :There is in fact no English Wikipedia article for Battle of Arras (1918), just a one-sentence mention in

    I can’t really reconcile these figures with the ones in your spreadsheet – could you explain your methodology here a little bit further?

    However, one of your observations – the length of the Italian and French Wikipedia articles on Arras 1917 – also raised my eyebrows, and I think I can help explain it. Looking at the structure of these articles, the images used, and the referencing it appears those articles are fairly closely based on translations of the English Wikipedia article. This also explains why the French and Italian articles are very long, but have far fewer edits than the English article.

    In some situations it is possible to notice different competing national narratives in Wikipedia articles. My hypothesis for World War I would be that topics are covered in the English Wikipedia in relation to the impact they had on Britain, Canada, Australia and the USA, though I have never been able to assess this, and as we see with the Arras (1917) article any trends based on editors’ interests can also be obscured by Wikipedians’ habit of translating strong articles into other languages!

    I look forward to discussing this subject more in the next few months…

    Chris Keating
    Wikimedia UK

    • Pat Lockley says:

      Hi Chris,

      The length is a curl grab and then a string length. I’d agree / infer common ground with your analysis – I took a
      Very simple approach with the api and didn’t go any deeper than that. I think the nature of an edit can be for so many reasons and so I’d not attach any weight to this data, I am no academic and I am not sure much could be interpreted from it – bar Interesting facts like the appearance of Tamil as a language.

      I’ll probably put the code I used on github when done.

      Hope this isn’t too disappointing.


  3. I’m sufficiently untechnical to not know what a curl grab is, I’m afraid 😉

    If this is something you’re interested in, I’m sure we can find ways to explore it further!



    • Pat Lockley says:

      Just a way for a computer to visit and download the page – so it is effectively a file size. Maybe check with Kate to see if a deeper analysis could be done as a blog post?

  4. wereSpielChequers says:

    Hi Pat, Interesting piece of work, but it makes me curious about Wikimedia Commons where we have a category for but not for the other two.

    Even is illustrated with a photograph dated 1915

  5. Pingback: What is a war, what is a front, what is a battle? | World War One Centenary

Leave a Reply