“Of no sort of use"?: Manuscripts, Memory, and the Family Archive in Eighteenth Century England’

Imogen Peck

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This article explores the posthumous afterlives of manuscripts preserved in the collections of three middling sort families during the long eighteenth century. Tracing these materials over multiple generations, it foregrounds the significant role that family archives played in the construction and curation of memory and identity among non-elite families during this period. Further, by showcasing the different ways that people engaged with written remains – annotating, consulting, transcribing, incorporating, accumulating – it seeks to demonstrate how reconstructing the motives that underpinned family collections might be possible, offering a framework for the study of intergenerational archival transmission. In so doing, it illuminates the palimpsestic, polyvocal quality of the family archive, the complex intersections between socio-economic status, gender, confessional identity, and a subject’s curatorial concerns, and the implications that this has for our understanding of archival culture, both past and present.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-204
Number of pages22
JournalCultural and Social History
Issue number2
Early online date29 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.


This work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust under [grant ECF-2019-329


  • Family
  • archive
  • manuscripts
  • memory
  • intergenerationalIn


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