chapter  III
3 Pages

III.12 Archives


The ‘archival turn’ in early modern studies has meant that scholars treat archives with increasing caution and critical attention, consciously reminded of the roles that archivists and other agents played in ‘constructing’ archives, which are defined here simply as accretions of records, documents or materials relating to individuals, families, companies, institutions or the state, and which might be preserved privately as well as, for example, by businesses, institutions or public archives at a local and national level. Archives are the very repositories that house many of the different categories of sources commonly interrogated by historians interested in early modern emotions, but generally with little regard given to the nature and composition of these entities. Something of their complexity is indicated by Jacques Derrida’s reminder of the ‘politics of the archive’, that is the relationship of archives to knowledge, power and belief systems, connected as they are to custody, access, preservation (and its antithesis, destruction), classification and the use of materials of memory.1 Control of the archive at a state, local or even family level was central to the ordering of knowledge, and shaping those paper testimonies of the past that survive to us today. At the most basic level, policies of accession, that is choosing what to keep and what to discard, as well as the motives (conscious and otherwise) that underpinned archival processes, are at the heart of understanding the very essence of the raw materials of history. The constructed nature of historical knowledge as viewed through the lens of archives is

thus of import to scholars interested in the history of emotions, in that the very evidence that they study to reconstruct feelings and behaviours in the past was often preserved with specific intentions. Methodologically, my analysis is influenced by material approaches to historicized texts as a way of unpacking and interpreting emotions located in archives and archival forms.