The Allure of the Archive: On Frustration and Comfort in the Historian’s Craft

As an historian of gender-based violence, I’ve often come across things in my archival research that have made me feel uncomfortable, disgusted, upset and so frustrated that I want to tear my hair out. I’ve also read files that have made me laugh, smile and left me feeling deeply proud and grateful to the women who fought to entrench women’s rights and protect women from violence. For me, the archive represents a host of emotional and physical responses. The memories of back aches from long days spent sitting, of drinking terrible (but cheap) machine coffee and the small pleasure that after months of daily visits, the archivists finally remember me as ‘Frau Freeland.’

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National Education Policy 2020: A Discussion on Educational Policy Reform in India, 14 October 2020

The year 2020 has posed unprecedented challenges for educators all over the world. In India, the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis have laid bare the structural inequalities entrenched in all levels of education. Students and teachers have been struggling to cope with the enormous digital divide in a predominantly poor country as teaching was moved online; many teachers and other workers in the private education sector have lost their jobs; severe economic hardship of the migrants, who were forced to leave big cities after a countrywide lockdown, has resulted in an escalation of the number of school and college drop-outs.

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Medieval Notions of Consent and Contemporary Social Cohesion: Impressions from Workshop ‘Law and Consent in Medieval Britain’, 30 October 2020

On Monday, 2 November 2020, a video posted on Twitter showed the owner of a soft play centre from Liverpool rejecting COVID-19 regulations, citing Clause 61 of Magna Carta. This historical agreement between the English king and his magnates was first concluded in 1215. In the owner’s opinion, the police had no right to close his business since—he argued—the medieval document showed that government authorities were bound by law and had to be resisted if they encroached on central personal liberties. This claim immediately provoked reactions from historians of the Middle Ages, who rightly pointed out that although parts of Magna Carta are, indeed, still part of English Law today, Clause 61 is no longer in force. In fact, it was removed in 1216, when the agreement was revised after King John’s death.

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