In a University of Cambridge post, "Q & A: how archives make history," (7 April 2014) researchers at a recent conference meta-cogitate on the relation between archives and the early modern period. My image on the archive then and now (ok, crowdsourcing, electronic artifacts, editing in the cloud, etc., make it a little different in the 21st century) is Richard Burton looking for a file in the Registry in "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" (ok, this is more recent version of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy," but stills of archives on film are hard to find). The file is not there, and there lies the rub. I must admit students beginning their foray into the history profession are less likely to see the romance of a system of organization, less likely to ask, why are the sources where they are, organized the way they are, and who decided to keep them like that. How wonderful, then, to have the brief answers to question such as who created archives, what do the silences or lapses tell us, provided in this run-up to "Transforming Information: Record Keeping in the Early Modern World."
Newton Key is Professor of British and early modern history at Eastern Illinois University; co-author of Early Modern England, and co-editor of Sources and Debates in English History, both 2nd ed., 2009. Follow on Academia, Twitter, or Bundlr.