|At the coalface - the Archive of the Archdiocese of Poznan|
On sabbatical leave and armed with a travel grant from the Oxford History Faculty, I spent last week in the western Polish city of
Poznań, on a research
trip for my current book project (ahead of the Euro 2012 football fans who will descend on the city en masse in June). I was there to look at 16C sources in the
Archdiocesan Archive, which I could see clearly as my Ryanair flight swooped
down over the city – a square, red-roofed building on Poznan’s
impressive cathedral island, in the . Warta
If a conference is the most socially exhausting experience in academic life (speaking to people almost non-stop from 8am to 11pm), the archive trip is the academic equivalent of solitary confinement – multiple days on your own in a foreign city where you know precisely nobody. It’s not like a business trip, because although sitting in remote archives is serious professional work for historians, there is no secretary organising your travel, no local office or clients responsible for looking after you, far less providing entertainment and welcome. The inhabitants of Poznań I’d come to see have been dead for 500 years, leaving only traces in 16C ecclesiastical records and the (heavily refurbished) buildings in which they lived.