Accepted paper:

Dwelling in the archive or: how to make the sources speak?


Burkhard Pöttler (University of Graz)

Paper short abstract:

Though created mainly for administrative purposes, archival sources from the “long 18th century” not only allow to get insights into dwelling conditions of different groups of society, but also into the desires regarding furnishings as a means of distinction.

Paper long abstract:

Sources for the dwelling conditions during the "long 18th century" - and especially for the poorer parts of the population - are rather rare and often the result of some administrative process, which implies the view from a more or less "official" perspective. The main goal often is the calculation of tributes or taxes. Nevertheless these sources can give important hints of the material basis of dwelling, as it is the case with probate inventories. Especially inventories which are written down room by room allow us to get insights into dwelling conditions. Besides the basic needs visible in these sources, they frequently offer access to the inhabitants' special wishes and desires. The differentiation in front stage and back stage according to Goffman by the arrangement of higher and lower-quality furnishings in special rooms or the wish to make a distinction to neighbours or other burghers by laying stress on a higher quality in furniture, textiles or knick-knacks often find their evidence in these sources. A sufficient economic basis is necessary in these cases or otherwise economic difficulties up to bankruptcy can arise. Besides the inventories, other archival sources - e.g. reports of physicians or topographers - tell us about ways of dwelling, e.g. by reporting irregular or deplorable dwelling conditions.

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Dwelling in the cultural archives I: traces, experiences and meanings