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Archives and Information in the Early Modern World$
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Kate Peters, Alexandra Walsham, and Liesbeth Corens

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266250

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266250.001.0001

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Death, Distance, and Bureaucracy: An Archival Story

Death, Distance, and Bureaucracy: An Archival Story

(p.263) 11 Death, Distance, and Bureaucracy: An Archival Story
Archives and Information in the Early Modern World

Sylvia Sellers-García

British Academy

This chapter in two parts considers several legal cases from Spanish America. It argues that geographic distance shaped the pace of proceedings and created bureaucratic distances critical to case outcomes. Geographic distance also shaped document trajectories, influencing how they would be stored and where they would come to rest. Archivists, both in the colonial period and since then, are the vital mediators of these many forms of distance. They were vital to the creation of document content, they determined which documents survived, and they make choices today that influence location and access. The cases being examined are from Guatemala and Mexico; they are drawn from both inquisition files and the secular criminal courts; they take place between 1698 and 1718. All the cases focus on the crimes and perceived transgressions of non-white women: witchcraft, murder, and adultery.

Keywords:   archives, criminal, distance, escribanos, inquisition, legal cases, witchcraft, women

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