Accepted paper:

"Traditional" medieval diplomatics and non-European documentation: chances for a dialogue


Sebastien Barret (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims at reflecting on how traditional diplomatics, which is mostly directed towards the Christian West, can share and exchange thoughts and methods with the emerging studies on non-European, non-Christian and non-medieval documentation

Paper long abstract:

Since the 17th Century, historians of medieval Europe have relied on diplomatics for the critical study of the written documentation they use. It has created an array of methods and conceptions which (hopefully) allows us to understand the documents, to uncover falsifications, and more generally to use the written inheritance of the past with a better perception of its juridical, social and cultural context. The very history of diplomatics explain why it has considered, above all, Christian Europe and the Middle Ages, although there have been successful attempts towards modern history, medieval Japan, Byzantium and other historical, linguistic or cultural areas. Currently, scholars of Hebrew, Arabic or African documents and others are developing concepts and methods for the analysis of their documentation. This paper aims at reflecting on how these research fields and the somewhat more established field of medieval diplomatics can interact and share their tools, methodology and solutions - a good opportunity for that is given by the fact that, simultaneously, the dramatic impact of the so-called "Digital Revolution" on archival sciences leads to new reflections on the nature of the written document, giving yet other tools to think with. Such an interaction should be understood as a dialogue, and not as a single-directed attempt at transferring all or some of the methods of medieval diplomatics towards new objects - even if being given by a medievalist, this paper will have to start from the point of view of his own scholarly traditions.

panel P152
Administrative and legal documentation in pre-colonial Africa and beyond