The Allure of the Archives Arlette Farge, Natalie Zemon Davis, Thomas Scott-Railton

Series:
The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History
Format:
Paperback
Publication date:
24 Feb 2015
ISBN:
9780300198935
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
152 pages: 203 x 127mm

Categories:

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An exquisite appreciation of the distinctive rewards of historical research and a classic guide to the personal yet disciplined craft of discovery, now in its first English translation.

Arlette Farge’s Le Goût de l’archive is widely regarded as a historiographical classic. While combing through two-hundred-year-old judicial records from the Archives of the Bastille, historian Farge was struck by the extraordinarily intimate portrayal they provided of the lives of the poor in pre-Revolutionary France, especially women. She was seduced by the sensuality of old manuscripts and by the revelatory power of voices otherwise lost. In The Allure of the Archives, she conveys the exhilaration of uncovering hidden secrets and the thrill of venturing into new dimensions of the past.

Originally published in 1989, Farge’s classic work communicates the tactile, interpretive, and emotional experience of archival research while sharing astonishing details about life under the Old Regime in France. At once a practical guide to research methodology and an elegant literary reflection on the challenges of writing history, this uniquely rich volume demonstrates how surrendering to the archive’s allure can forever change how we understand the past.

Arlette Farge is Director of Research in Modern History at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. Natalie Zemon Davis is Professor of History at the University of Toronto. Thomas Scott-Railton is the translator of several books, including works by Étienne Balibar, Michel Foucault, and Slavoj Žižek.

"[Farge's] description of a personal, physical relationship to archives resonates more than ever as the essence of curiosity, an existentially fulfilling act in which the historian can literally touch the past."—Jacob Soll, Chronicle Review

"A little gem of a book. A diamond, perhaps, given both its clarity and the finesse with which it’s been cut and set. It is an unmistakable classic: one of the great memoirs of the silent, day-to-day drama of research . . . Adamantine: sharp, brilliant, perfect, and created to last."—Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed

Lyrical, suspenseful and humorous in turn. Farge has created a fascinating account of how historians work that will appeal to scholars and history buffs alike . . . [This] classic intellectual memoir, finally translated into English, elegantly re-creates the thrills and (literal) chills of a historian's archival treasure hunts."—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

In this elegant and captivating (and admirably translated) account . . . we gain an appreciation of historical research as a calling, an obsession, and an insight into how our ideas about the past might be shaped."—Los Angeles Review of Books

Received second place for the 2014 translation prize in non-fiction given by the French-American Foundation and the Florence Gould Foundation.

“A unique, lyrical  paean to historical research, . . . now superbly translated into English. . . . The kick of research—not self-evident, by any means—is the subject of Farge’s marvelous book. Behind it lies the goal of history, which is ‘the understanding of a time and a world.’ . . . [But] The Allure of the Archives is more than a reflection, however evocative, on the seductive joys and travails of research; it is a methodological handbook, . . . [containing] several chapters with subheadings that read like guidelines for the would-be historian.”—Brenda Wineapple, The Threepenny Review