Historians depend upon archives, but archives were not written for them. Each archive has an organization, an argumentation, and a style, which depends on the context and the purposes for which it was produced. In the West, this scribal culture has a history which began with the great chanceries (religious and political) of the Middle Ages and modern Europe and was amplified during the bureaucratic revolution of the nineteenth century. To learn to work seriously on all sorts of archives, it is necessary to understand the organization of this fantastic field of written production. The class will examine some of the most important types of written documents used by historians, the social and cultural position of those who produced them, and the political context in which they were produced. On the side of public documents, we will focus more particularly on parish registers, notarial acts, police records, trial documents, censorship judgments, tax registrations, censuses, etc. On the side of private ones, we will examine correspondences, account books, family chronicles, diary, etc. Each student will select an archive related to her or his research and write a short but intensive case study on materials from it.
Undergraduate enrollment is by permission of the instructor only.