Archivists and Historians:
: Perspectives on the Place of Historical Research in Archival Practice

  • Robert E. Stansfield-Cudworth

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


C.H. Jenkinson’s assertion that ‘the archivist is not and ought not to be a historian’ is the focus of this study of perspectives on the place of historical research in archival practice. It explores the archivist’s role by pursuing two objectives: contexualisation of Jenkinson’s views within contemporaneous developments in archives and historical scholarship during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and examination of historical research’s centrality to contemporary archival practice. In Introduction (Chapter 1), the study’s objectives, methodology, literature, and the nature of the ‘historical enterprise’ are outlined. Chapter 2 begins with Jenkinson’s observations on the archivist’s role (which requires contextualisation within wider contemporaneous developments in History and historiography) before considering the whig approach, the professionalisation of History, and the ‘archival turn’. The advance of other historical approaches during the twentieth century, such as prosopography, county studies, the scientific study of society, and social history is also examined. Chapter 3 discusses the pertinence of historical research in the contemporary application of archival principles by examining those aspects regularly utilised in archival practice. It considers how historical methods, approaches, and historiography are relevant to diplomatic and description (concerning exploration of sources and contextual narratives); arrangement and appraisal (detailing arrangement and judgement); and education and engagement (encompassing publication and other activities). In conclusion (Chapter 4), the study’s themes are evaluated with reference to the ‘historical enterprise’ and the cultural contributions of historical and archival professions. Examination of historiography prior to Jenkinson’s publication of 1922 facilitates appreciation of his views and their evolution over subsequent years hence his prohibition of archivists to be historians has become inappropriate since archivists are active as historians because of their engagement in the wider ‘historical enterprise’.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJennie Hill (Supervisor)

Cite this