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Understanding the archives


Admission requirements



A number of books and articles provide the student with an overview of the various lines of approach in archival science. The concept of archive is in the forefront of this discussion. Students get insight in the various functions of archives in society. In the discussion the emphasis is on the use of archives as a historical source. Important questions are: why is it important to understand the context of archives creation to be able to use archives as historical sources? Do the sources actually say what they say? Which approach to archives does the historian choose and which approach is taken by the archivist?

Course objectives

This seminar provides the student with a good overview of the archival domain. The seminar discusses the various functions of an archive in society. The literature seminar provides an overview of the diverse issues with which archival science wrestles and gives insight into the relationship between archives creation on the one hand and using the archives as a historical source in history science on the other hand.


See here.

Mode of instruction

Literature seminar.

Assessment method

Presentation&participation (20%) and mid term exam (40%); essay (40%).



Reading list

  • T. Cook, ‘What is past is prologue: a history of archival ideas since 1898 and the future paradigm shift’, in Archivaria 43 (1996)

  • Leen Dorsman, ‘De nieuwe eruditie. Het ontstaan van een historisch bedrijf’ in Jo Tollebeek ea (eds), De Palimpsest. Geschiedschrijving in de Nederlanden 1500-2000 (Hilversum 2002) 159-176

  • J.M. Panitch, ‘Liberty, Equality, Posterity? Some archival lessons from the case of the French revolution’ in American Archivist 59 (1996) 30-47

  • M. Duchein, ‘The history of European archives and the development of the archival profession in Europe’ in: American Archivist 55 (1992) 14-25

  • F.R.J. Verhoeven, ‘Geschiedenis van het Indische Archiefwezen van 1816-1854’ in Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal- Land- en Volkenkunde (1939) 461-529

  • Eric Ketelaar, ‘Recordkeeping and Societal power’ in Sue McKemmish et al. (eds) Archives, recordkeeping in Society (Wagga-Wagga 2005) 277-298

  • A. Meijer, ‘Anticipating accountability processes’ in Archives and Manuscripts 28 (2000) 52-63

  • M. Hedstrom, ‘Archives, Memory and interfaces with the past’ in Archival Science 2 (2002) 21-43

  • Verne Harris, ‘The Archival Sliver: Power, Memory, and Archives in South Africa in Archival Science 2: 63-86, 2002

  • From Explorers to Evangelists: Archivists, Recordkeeping, and Remembering in the Pacific Islands. Evelyn Wareham. Archival Science, 2: 187-207, 2002.

  • Verne Harris, Archives and Justice. A south African Perspective (Chicago 2007) chapters 16 and 17

  • M.A.P. Roelofsz, Van geheim tot openbaar: een historiografische verkenning (1970)

  • M.A.P. Bovens, De Digitale rechtsstaat. Beschouwingen over informatiemaatschappij en rechtsstaat (1998)

  • Code of Ethics (ICA)

  • T. Thomassen, ‘Archivists between knowledge and power. On the independence and autonomy of archival science and the archival profession’ in Y. Bos-Rops, G. Janssens, Ch. Jeurgens, E. Ketelaar, Lezen! Teksten over het archief (Den Haag 2009)

  • T. Eastwood, ‘Reflections on the goal of archival appraisal in democratic societies’ in Archivaria 54 (2002) 59-71

  • H.W. Samuels, ‘Samuels, Who controls the past?’ in American Archivist 49 (1986) 109-126

  • F.C.J. Ketelaar, ‘Archieven: munimenta en monumenta’ in Frans Grijzenhout (red.) Erfgoed. De geschiedenis van een begrip (Amsterdam 2007) 85-108

  • David Lowenthal, ‘Archives, heritage and history’ in: Francis Blouin jr and William Rosenberg (eds) Archives, documentation and institutions of social memory (Ann Arbor 2006) 193-206

  • E. Yakel, ‘Archival representation’ in Archival science 3 (2003) 1-25

  • D. Bearman and R. Lyte, ‘The power of the principle of provenance’ in Archivaria 21 (1985-86) 14-27

  • E Yakel and D.A. Torres, ‘AI: Archival intelligence and user expertise’ in The American Archivist (2003) 51-78

  • Roy Rosenzweig, ‘Scarcity or abundance? Preserving the past in a digital era’ in The American Historical Review 108 (2003) 735-762


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