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A comparative history of archives in late medieval and early modern Italy

Final Report Summary - AR.C.H.I.VES (A comparative history of archives in late medieval and early modern Italy)

The ARCHIves studied the establishment, management and use of archives in late medieval and early modern Italy, from the 13th century – when those offices first began preserving records systematically – to the end of the 18th – when they were toppled by wars and revolutions at the end of the ancien régime. The project compared chanceries and secretariats in seven case studies (Milan, Venice, Modena, Florence, Rome, Naples and Palermo) with other Italian and non-Italian cases. A variety of aspects were studied, including: the politics of archives, their organisation and arrangement, the material aspects of record-keeping, the social history of record-keepers, the uses of archives by outsiders, and the knowledge of archives by late medieval and early modern historians. The team – a PI, two Post-Docs, and two PhD students – established a basic periodization common to all case studies and demonstrated: the multifaceted importance of archives as centres for knowledge organisation and production, not just preservation; the mixed material, political, and intellectual preoccupations that informed archival administration; the relevance of archives to the lives of people beyond government institutions. The team critiqued the pre-eminence traditionally given to Central and Northern Italy, and demonstrated the vitality and inventiveness of archival practices in the South. And we demonstrated the ways in which scholars since the late Middle Ages made sustained use of archives. The team organised a succession of nine international workshops and conferences, attracted interest from doctoral students and researchers in other universities, invited a dozens of speakers, collaborated closely with professional archivists. Collectively we published a book, a further collection of sources, and 2 special issues of peer-reviewed journals. Individually, team members published 23 book chapters or articles.