One of the most exciting yet intimidating elements of PhD research is the archival visit. This is perhaps particularly daunting for those of us venturing to foreign pastures and putting into practice hard-earned language skills. However, the rewards of navigating the maze of the foreign archive are substantial and the experience can be enriching in more ways than one. Read more
Posts tagged ‘Italy’
Aliens? Illuminati secrets? Devices that can see into the future? It seems that no conspiracy theory is too far-fetched for those who speculate what may be hidden within the vaults of the Archivum Segretum Vaticanum.  Indeed, the Vatican’s ‘secret’ archives are perhaps unique in their ability to fire the popular thirst for tales of mystery and machination – think, for instance, of their recent appearance in the 2009 film-adaptation of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, which saw an ill-fated Tom Hanks trapped in a bullet-proof reading room, slowly being deprived of oxygen. Read more
by Konstantin Wertelecki
Konstantin Wertelecki is an MPhil student in Modern European History at the University of Cambridge.
In June 1940, British citizens Mr. and Mrs. Waterfield drove to the Florence railway station, just in time to catch the last train to France before Italy declared war on Britain. Bizarrely, this was their second escape from Italy; they previously fled Tuscany in 1939. But after concluding that the Italians posed no threat, they decided to return. As their daughter Kinta Beevor recalled, this was a common attitude among British expatriates: ‘Although Florence was plastered with virulently anti-British posters, few [Anglo]Florentines seemed to take them seriously.’ So in the face of danger, why did British citizens stay in Fascist Italy? While there are several reasons to this, among the most prominent was British expatriates’ tenacious grip on their British identity.
Archives seem to feature prominently in our blog, but this is not without reason. Talking about archives and how historians deal with them is useful on two main levels. We hope to give some guidelines to new research students – as obvious as some of them may be. And we want to show that the work of a historian is more diverse and complicated than what is sometimes imagined. Before we sit at a desk and immerse ourselves for days in old papers, notes, letters, microfilms, photographs or videos, we spend hours looking for them. Read more
by Marta Musso
When I think of classicists spending hours trying to analyse what is left of a civilisation from a few words on a stone that survived centuries of rain, I pat myself on the back for deciding to specialise in contemporary history. It actually feels like cheating: not only are sources everywhere and the consequences of what happened forty years ago still weigh heavily today (however, being able to discern them is another story). Sometimes you can even talk to the people who made the events you are studying. Not much to dig up then, right?