Faculty News

Accidental Archive

Faculty member Carol Pal's chapter, "Accidental Archive: Samuel Hartlib and the Afterlife of Female Scholars," was recently published in Archival Afterlives: Life, Death, and Knowledge-Making in Early Modern British Scientific and Medical Archives.

Archival Afterlives

Pal's chapter deals with an unintended archive; and, by doing so, it also raises an archival question.  

Seventeenth-century female scholars were highly active in their intellectual worlds, and well-known in the republic of letters; at the same time, however, they could not belong to any of the scientific institutions with which they were concerned.  Where, then, would their papers find their archival home?  

For a number of female scholars – including Bathsua Makin, Dorothy Moore, and Katherine Jones, Lady Ranelagh – that home was found in the papers of the intelligencer Samuel Hartlib (c.1600-1662). Hartlib's papers document his work in the service of a combination of seventeenth-century projects – the advancement of learning, the pan-Protestant cause, and a general program of improvement – and are a rich repository of letters, copies, excerpts, pamphlets, and notes.  

They were intended for himself alone, and their purpose was to be functional, rather than archival or memorial. Yet for the female scholars in his network, whose intellectual work was not part of the archival logic of other collections, Hartlib's papers became their de facto archival home. 

So can we call Hartlib's papers an archive, or not? This chapter examines that process, that question, and the ways in which archives intersect with identity.