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Identity and Loss of Historical Memory

The Destruction of Archives


Edited By Igor Filippov and Flocel Sabaté

Archives are the documentary memory of each society and so they become one of the pillars of its identity. Its destruction is sometimes accidental, but it is often deliberate in order to remove the ties with the past. The new times that revolutions attempt to reach usually involve forceful and symbolic ruptures with former identity, including the destruction of the economic, administrative and historical documentation. This book collects updated texts written by outstanding researchers from an initial Congress held in Moscow in 2006 in order to analyze the causes and consequences of the destructive violence against archives boasted during revolutionary turmoils. The studies pay special attention to the first important contempt and destruction of documentation, during the French Revolution; continue studying the damages to archives during 19th century; and culminated analyzing the effects of Russian Revolution over the documentation and the evolution until the end of the Soviet period.

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Historical Archives: Function and Destruction (Flocel Sabaté)


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Historical Archives: Function and Destruction

Flocel SABATÉUniversitat de Lleida

All societies seek cohesion in the construction of a common narrative, which justifies continuity over time. Thus, each society has the basic and central necessity to identify itself with a memory taken as its own, one that has to be passed down from one generation to the next.

However, human memory is fragile. Many practices and customs last longer than the human record according to one of the most often repeated expressions in medieval documentation, which refers to facts and uses whose origins date back to temps que no és memòria de omens (“times which are not in the memory of men”)1. So, things have to be recorded in writing. Very explicitly, when written accounts were made of the complaints about seigniorial breaches and abuses in the feudal context of the 11th and 12th centuries, the document often called for records to be kept of these events: hec est memoria2. Similarly, when various rights and duties to retain the existing obligations were collected, these sometimes clearly expressed the wish that this memòria sia (“be in the memory”)3.

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