In the discipline of history, every published article or book, every lecture or conference presentation, has a backstory of how it was researched and written, and in most of these stories, archives play a key role. But the archives that historians work in are themselves historical—they evolve and are subject to the whims of nature and the authorities who provide curatorship, funds and buildings for them. That is as may be: there remains something timeless about the encounter between the researcher and the primary documents archives hold, the scraps of information that can be pieced together into a satisfying patchwork, the sense of literally reaching out to another time and place, and to the people who lived there.
Robert Aldrich explores the fascinating world of archives as he delves into Arlette Farge’s compelling volume The Allure of the Archives. Read his essay in the Australian Review of Public Affairs.
Robert Aldrich is Professor of European History at The University of Sydney. He carries out research and teaches in the fields of modern European history, the history of colonialism and imperialism and the history of sexuality. His recent publications include Gay Life Stories (Thames & Hudson, 2012), The Routledge History of Western Empires (co-edited with Kirsten McKenzie, Routledge, 2014), and Cultural Exchange and Homosexuality in Sri Lanka: Sex and Serendipity (Routledge, 2014).
Title: The Allure of the Archives
Publisher: Yale University Press
Date Published: 2013
Author: Arlette Farge, trans. by Thomas Scott-Railton
Image: book cover / The Allure of the Archives