Archives in French History

ddfhs_40_2In the most recent issue of French Historical Studies, “Archives in French History,” editors Sarah A. Curtis and Stephen L. Harp examine the role of the archive in the study of French history. “Archives are a subject as well as an object of study, not simple depots for boxes containing unambiguous evidence of the past waiting to be discovered by historians,” they write in the introduction. “This issue reveals not only the breadth of archives now used to write French history but also the depth of thinking about the relationship between archives and history and between archives and historians.”

Contributors to this issue question the nature, origin, or history of the archive in French history to examine its dynamic relationship to the history that is written, rather than treating the archive as static or inert. The archives, therefore, are the historical subjects themselves. They answer questions like what constitutes an archive, what is the role of the state in the archival collection, what is no longer in the archive, who controls access to the archive, and what historians owe to their sources.

From the introduction:

Despite these new questions, our contention is that historians of France, like historians in many other fields today, use a wider array of archives, and we use them more broadly, more deeply, and more self-consciously than ever before. One special issue cannot fully capture that depth or that breadth, but the essays here offer a taste of the richness that characterizes current work on France while also providing thoughtful understandings of the structure and context of archives. We hope they encourage you to reflect—critically or not—on your own archive stories.

Topics in this issue include the ownership of history, sex in the archives, discovering an accidental archive, and the destruction and salvation of the archive. Browse the full table-of-contents.

Read the introduction to the issue, made freely available.

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