The indictment of Alice Sparke, who was put on trial for witchcraft on 23 March 1576. Document reference: ASSI 35/18/5 m 18.
You live in a village in 16th century England and you keep two cows. Sadly, your cows are not thriving and you are concerned for their welfare. Do you:
a) Change their diet?
b) Treat them with leeches?
c) Kill them, sell the meat and use the profit to buy better cows?
d) Accuse someone of bewitching them?
John Harvy, from Buntingford in Hertfordshire, chose option d. He accused a woman named Alice Sparke of being an ‘enchantress and witch’. Alice denied the accusation and was put on trial for witchcraft at the assizes in Hertford on 23 March 1576. Continue reading »
A boy who has found a horse. Document reference: CN 8/1/37 (detail)
My inspiration for today’s blog post comes from two things that stuck in my head when I read them. The first is a pearl of wisdom from the fictional detective Miss Marple, which I will quote later. The second is a recent comment made in response to a colleague’s post on this blog: ‘how can you research a record or collection if you do not know it exists?’
The trivial answer to this question is, of course, that you can’t. It does, however, prompt another, more complicated question: how can you find archival sources that are relevant for your research?
In previous blog posts, I’ve given some hints on how to get started and noted some attributes of really successful researchers. For this post, I’ve decided to offer a brief outline of three different ways of locating and identifying interesting records: serendipity, ‘brute force’ and archival logic. In practice, most people’s experience of using archives tends to involve some combination of these three. Continue reading »
These people are 'archivally intelligent'. Are you?
My inspiration for today’s blog post comes from three things that I’ve been involved with over the past few weeks.
The first was helping to teach on a training course run by the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management about using archives. The second was taking part in our new ‘live chat’ service. Both of these set me thinking about the kinds of advice that I give people daily as part of my job. The third was that, alongside other members of the Cardigan Continuum reading group, I read an article by two American archivists, Elizabeth Yakel and Deborah Torres . I found that this provided a useful structure for my thoughts.
Yakel and Torres explore what it means to be an expert user of archives and identify three distinct kinds of user-expertise, which they call subject knowledge, artifactual literacy and archival intelligence. In this post, I’ve interpreted these three in my own way. Continue reading »
- A great place to visit, if you do some preparation first
It’s obvious from the comments, tweets and other feedback that we’ve had about our blog that its readers are a diverse group. Some of you have a lot of experience of doing research and others have none.
This post is mainly aimed at readers with little or no experience of visiting archives to use original, paper records, but who think that they would like to do so. If you’re thinking of visiting The National Archives or another archives at some stage, you might find it useful to bear in mind the following hints. Continue reading »
“Do you have my grandad’s Royal Air Force service record?”
“Can I do research on the Great Western Railway at The National Archives?”
“Are the records that I want available online?”
“Where can I find out more about the history of my village?”