Authenticating and Evaluating Evidence

Michael Moss, David Thomas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Archivists and historians have made elaborate truth claims for archives. We critically assess these claims both in the analogue world and in the digital, and show that they are problematic. We contend that archives operate in two truth spaces: the mundane and the imaginal. Archives can fulfil their mundane administrative functions and meet all possible tests of authenticity but remain full of half-truths and distortions. The only way to determine whether a document is authentic is to apply the scholarly tests developed by classicists and biblical scholars since the sixteenth century and which are as relevant in the digital era as they were when applied to the second century Epistles of Phalaris. Our arguments echo the views of Lord Acton, the founder of ‘scientific’ history in Britain, who saw history as a process of criticism and evaluation which requires everything, including the authenticity of documents, to be continually evaluated.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArchives
Subtitle of host publicationPower, Truth, and Fiction
EditorsAndrew Prescott, Alison Wiggins
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780191980145
ISBN (Print)9780198829324
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2023

Publication series

PublisherBritish Records Association
ISSN (Print)0003-9535

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