Archived Landscapes and Archival Landscapes: Architectures of Political Record-Keeping in Early Modern Western Europe, 1450-1700
Plan Fluntern: Lehenhöfe Tobelhof and Zürichberg belonging to the Obmannamt: With the coat of arms of the Obmannamt as well as the family coat of arms of the Heideggers, ca. 1680, 765 x 660 mm © Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich
6:00-8:00 pm


Archived Landscapes and Archival Landscapes: Architectures of Political Record-Keeping in Early Modern Western Europe, 1450-1700

Randolph Head

The materiality of pre-digital documentary sources means that their preservation and organization in archives involved at least two simultaneous and separate architectonic contexts. Archivists sought to place physical documents within ordered spaces in a legible way; at the same time, as conveyers of information, documents were equally part of larger conceptual architectures, which were often spatially conceived in early modern Europe. This talk builds on the seminal contributions of Peter Rück, who captured this duality with the term “ideal-topographical”, but will move beyond the mapping relationships that Rück identified as the most common way of ordering archives from the 14th to 17th centuries. Examining several notable creations of dedicated archival architecture, from 15th century Savoy to Simancas to the Haus- und Hofarchiv in Vienna in the 1740s, it will examine how the architecture of physical archives provided for but also constrained landscapes of domainal space by projecting them onto archival containers. In doing so, archiving supported shifting architectures of dominion by providing a stable site where such landscapes could be delineated and differentiated, as in the production of maps or cadasters.

Randolph Head  (Ph.D. University of Virginia,  A.B. in anthropology, Harvard) is Professor of History at the University of California. His research investigates political and institutional culture in Switzerland and Europe around 1600 from various perspectives. In 2019 he completed a comparative study of early modern European archives, which includes cases from Amsterdam to Zurich and Lisbon to Vienna (Making Archives in Early Modern Europe: Proof, Information and Political Record-Keeping, 1400-1700, Cambridge University Press, 2019). His earlier work concentrated on political culture in Switzerland, including a monograph on Early Modern Democracy in the Grisons (Cambridge University Press, 1995) and a 2008 biography of Georg Jenatsch, an early seventeenth-century pastor, soldier, and politician who was assassinated in 1639 by a man dressed as a bear (Jenatsch’s Axe, University of Rochester Press, 2008). In 2013, he co-authored the Cambridge Concise History of Switzerland (Cambridge University Press), and he has edited several volumes of essays and a special issues of the journal Archival Science (2010). His research has garnered support from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, the American Philosophical Society, the Newberry Library, and the Herzog-August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. He has been engaged as a faculty member and administrator with UCR’s Washington Center program (UCDC) since 2003, and served as Chair of the History department in 2010-2011 and again from 2014 to 2016. Professor Head’s teaching interests include media technologies and knowledge systems through history, popular politics in early modern Europe, and early modern world history.

The lecture was part of the lecture series Built Order: Spaces of Power and was a virtual event that took place in English. The lecture was recorded and is available on