We all have our archive stories. Eavesdrop at the annual meetings of the Society for French Historical Studies or any other French history conference, and you'll hear scholars and students alike recount anecdotes about working in the archives: the gustatory (where to eat lunch), the revealing (a homemade G-string, trial evidence of exhibitionism), the pecuniary (twenty-dollar bills from the 1930s, never-pilfered evidence in a bribery trial), the parsimonious (being charged for electricity in a private archive), the ironic (excrement from a literal archival rat), and so on. The stories can be so much fun that one of us has long fantasized about collecting them all into a book of short archival anecdotes. Traveling to France (for overseas scholars) and working at the Archives Nationales or in “Aix,” not to mention the alphabet soup of departmental archives, is a rite of passage...
SARAH A. CURTIS is professor of history at San Francisco State University and author of Educating the Faithful: Religion, Schooling, and Society in Nineteenth-Century France (2000) and Civilizing Habits: Women Missionaries and the Revival of French Empire (2010). She is working on a book tentatively titled Small Worlds: The Culture of Childhood in Nineteenth-Century France.
STEPHEN L. HARP, professor of history and French at the University of Akron, is author of Learning to Be Loyal: Primary Schooling and Nation Building in Alsace and Lorraine, 1850–1940 (1998); Marketing Michelin: Advertising and Cultural Identity in Twentieth-Century France (2001); Au Naturel: Naturism, Nudism, and Tourism in Twentieth-Century France (2014); and A World History of Rubber: Empire, Industry, and the Everyday (2016).
Sarah A. Curtis, Stephen L. Harp; Introduction. French Historical Studies 1 April 2017; 40 (2): 177–187. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00161071-3761571
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