ARCHIVES: Spring 2016 Double Issue. ToC and Abstracts

Contents

Robert F.W. Smith, Sir Edward Coke’s collection of knowledge: The inception of the Holkham archive

Amanda Bevan and David Foster, Shakespeare’s original will: A re-reading, and a reflection on interdisciplinary research within archives

Lesley Higgins, Spelt from Hopkins’s leaves: Considering archival ‘remains’

Paul Rock, ‘The dreadful flood of documents’: The 1958 Public Record Act and its aftermath Part 1: The genesis of the Act

John Campbell, Writing political biography – with and without the papers

Clare Cowling, Legal records at risk: What should be done to rescue private sector legal records?

Obituary: Janette Harley, 1951-2015

Obituary: Harry Cobb, 1926-2016

 

ABSTRACTS

Robert F. W. Smith, Sir Edward Coke’s collection of knowledge: The inception of the Holkham archive

This article considers the early history of the archive of the Coke family now held at Holkham Hall, Norfolk, and suggests that the efforts of the seventeenth-century jurist Sir Edward Coke to collect reliable information about his and others’ Norfolk estates were the driving force behind its creation. Using a variety of documents in the Holkham archive, it shows that Coke had systematic procedures in place for copying manorial documents, and an extensive  network of friends who helped him collect them. It points towards the large amount of research which remains to be done on Sir Edward Coke as a land magnate.

Amanda Bevan and David Foster, Shakespeare’s original will: A re-reading, and a reflection on interdisciplinary research within archives

Much academic ink has been spilled on the importance of William Shakespeare’s last will and testament, particularly as a source illuminating his life and character. Drawing upon recent archival research and technical analysis, this article details the processes by which interdisciplinary approaches to the will have resulted in a fundamental reinterpretation of what the contents of the will can tell us about Shakespeare’s final years.

Lesley Higgins, Spelt from Hopkins’s leaves: Considering archival ‘remains’

What can be learned from three sketchbooks, a family scrapbook, a handful of letters, an essay notebook, and a few other ‘scraps, orts, and fragments’? The Gerard Manley Hopkins ‘remains’ at Balliol College, Oxford, although comparatively few, have much to teach us about his controversial practices as self-curator, the posthumous (and precarious) disposition of his poetry and papers, and the ways in which reading Hopkins is always an exercise in textual counter-point.

Paul Rock, ‘The dreadful flood of documents’: The 1958 Public Record Act and its aftermath

Part 1: The genesis of the Act
This bipartite paper flows out of the writing of a history of criminal justice and it attempts to resolve why so many state records of scholarly importance were destroyed in the latter half of the twentieth century. Since its foundation in 1838, the Public Record Office or PRO, later The National Archives, the chief repository of state papers, has confronted the problem of how to accommodate a remorselessly growing mass of documents. Shaped by periodic crises and bouts of anxious stocktaking, it has sought continually to develop effective ways of culling or ‘weeding’ the unwanted record. At the end of the Second World War, especially, the accumulation of papers had become so substantial that a new and radical organisation and methods analysis was to be applied
by the Treasury to what was defined as a failed and antiquarian PRO. A committee under the chairmanship of Sir James Grigg elected to give primacy to reducing the volume of records. It turned its back on what it took to be the PRO’s discredited staff, techniques and ideology,although, ironically, it did warmly endorse the presumption of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, the PRO’s deputy keeper, that historians and archivists were quite incapable of identifying which records might become of future historical interest. Criteria of historical significance were as a result to be introduced slowly and belatedly, and only after Sir Hilary had departed. The outcome was to be a structural revolution that was driven principally by an imperative to save money and labour,conserve space and do away with as many records as possible, and much that was of scholarly interest has been lost in consequence.

John Campbell, Writing political biography – with and without the papers

John Campbell is the author of highly respected biographies of some of the major political figures of the twentieth century. In this article he shares his memories of the experience of working with a wide range of sources – including his strategy for dealing with a situation in which no original manuscript sources were available at all.

Clare Cowling, Legal records at risk: What should be done to rescue private sector legal records?

Private sector legal records are at risk of becoming lost or inaccessible through globalization, digital obsolescence, physical neglect, lack of interest on the part of information owners or reduced archive resources to preserve and provide access to the records. All records in the private sector face similar challenges, but modern legal records (early twentieth century to the present day) are particularly vulnerable due to recent developments which are transforming the nature, organisation,  regulation and economics of legal services. These changes are outstripping the capacity of the traditional providers of legal research facilities to preserve and make available relevant records. Unless systematic efforts are made towards collecting private sector legal records, we are in danger of losing a significant proportion of our legal heritage. Research using modern legal records will continue to be weighted towards the study of government policy, legislation and the courts, producing a distorted historical picture of the UK’s legal framework.