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Early Modern European Archivality: Organised Records, Information, and State Power, c.1500

Early Modern European Archivality: Organised Records, Information, and State Power, c.1500

Chapter:
(p.29) 2 Early Modern European Archivality: Organised Records, Information, and State Power, c.1500
Source:
Archives and Information in the Early Modern World
Author(s):
Randolph C. Head
Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266250.003.0002

Comparative case-study analysis can provide valuable insights into record-keeping systems within Europe and cross-culturally. Building on a comparison of empirical evidence from 16th-century Lisbon and Würzburg, this chapter makes three methodological arguments. First, a critique of Ernst Posner’s path-breaking Archives of the Ancient World (1972) leads to the conclusion that we must revise our categories for the analysis of record-keeping across cultures. Instead of assimilating non-European repositories to European archives, the broader category of archivality avoids the uncritical naturalisation of European practices while still recognising similarities cross-culturally. Second, archivality is most useful if applied primarily to the accumulation of records by institutions of power, such as empires, kingdoms, and states, as one subset of record-keeping more broadly. Third, inventories and organisational structures represent a particularly promising area for comparative analysis. Comparison of the Lisbon and Würzburg evidence shows two related but diverging archivalities at work in early modern Europe.

Keywords:   information management, archives, record-keeping, inventories, registers, Europe, state papers, comparative history, Lisbon, Würzburg

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