This graduate-level course examines how early modern archives were created — and how modern historians are using those archives today in new and innovative ways. From mapping to musicology, we examine the exciting ways that scholars have re-imagined and re-narrated the early modern past. Each week focuses on a different methodological approach and archival genre.
We are especially attuned to archival “silences” and the question of “agnotology”: the study of that which has been forgotten. So we not only examine how collections have been, and continue to be, created and curated by individuals and institutions, but we also ask what stories have been left out, ignored, or suppressed — and why. We pay particular attention to the role of the emerging professional disciplines, such as medicine, botany, and natural history, as well as missionary/religious networks, in shaping our understanding of the early modern world. We also explore the connections between empire and scientific collecting, religion and ethnography, and gender and medicine.
During the course of the semester, we take field trips to local archives in the Twin Cities, such as the Bell Library, the Bakken Museum and the Wangensteen, to learn how their collections were developed. Specific topics of inquiry include “cabinets of curiosities,” the impact of global missionary networks, the development of cartography and mapping, and the codification of race.
Selected readings and resources: