I’ve just discovered that Arlette Farge’s book Le Goût de l’archive was translated into English and was published last year as The Allure of the Archive. Farge worked with Foucault on the lettres de cachet collection Le désordre des families – also being translated into English (see here). It’s good to see her work getting some more notice in English debates, though a couple of her works on Paris are translated.
Arlette Farge’s Le Goût de l’archive is widely regarded as a historiographical classic. While combing through two-hundred-year-old judicial records from the Archives of the Bastille, historian Farge was struck by the extraordinarily intimate portrayal they provided of the lives of the poor in pre-Revolutionary France, especially women. She was seduced by the sensuality of old manuscripts and by the revelatory power of voices otherwise lost. In The Allure of the Archives, she conveys the exhilaration of uncovering hidden secrets and the thrill of venturing into new dimensions of the past.
Originally published in 1989, Farge’s classic work communicates the tactile, interpretive, and emotional experience of archival research while sharing astonishing details about life under the Old Regime in France. At once a practical guide to research methodology and an elegant literary reflection on the challenges of writing history, this uniquely rich volume demonstrates how surrendering to the archive’s allure can forever change how we understand the past.
Thanks to Matt Farish for sending me this review. If you can get past the paywall it has some good discussion of Farge’s methods and some links to her work with Foucault.