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The Allure of the Archives - Farge, Arlette; Davis, Natalie Zemon; Thomas Scott-Railton - Yale University Press
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The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History

The Allure of the Archives

  • Arlette Farge; Translated by Thomas Scott-Railton; Foreword by Natalie Zemon Davis
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Received second place for the 2014 translation prize in non-fiction given by the French-American Foundation and the Florence Gould Foundation.

Arlette Farge’s Le Goût de l’archive is widely regarded as a historiographical classic. While combing through two-hundred-year-old judicial records from the Archives of the Bastille, historian Farge was struck by the extraordinarily intimate portrayal they provided of the lives of the poor in pre-Revolutionary France, especially women. She was seduced by the sensuality of old manuscripts and by the revelatory power of voices otherwise lost. In The Allure of the Archives, she conveys the exhilaration of uncovering hidden secrets and the thrill of venturing into new dimensions of the past.



Originally published in 1989, Farge’s classic work communicates the tactile, interpretive, and emotional experience of archival research while sharing astonishing details about life under the Old Regime in France. At once a practical guide to research methodology and an elegant literary reflection on the challenges of writing history, this uniquely rich volume demonstrates how surrendering to the archive’s allure can forever change how we understand the past.

Arlette Farge is Director of Research in Modern History at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. Natalie Zemon Davis is Professor of History at the University of Toronto. Thomas Scott-Railton has translated for Annales: Histoire, Sciences sociales and New Global Studies.

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