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2. Key principles

Evidence

As we have seen, one of the main characteristics of archives is that they are evidence of historically significant events. This means that when using archives, you have to think about how trustworthy these primary sources are.

In order to get the most out of archival research, you ought to be logical and methodical. You should also consider the context in which primary sources were created. If you remember the principles in this section, you will find your research more rewarding and be able to make informed decisions about whether to trust the records you use.

Think about a court case. The defence and the prosecution both present evidence to support their claims. It is the job of the jury to interpret that evidence and draw their own conclusions. There is often more than one perspective. When deciding on their verdict, they consider the validity of the evidence they have seen, as well as the context. Similarly, it is possible for different people to interpret archival documents in different ways. This is why it is important to think about authenticity and reliability.

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