Towards professionalism? : archives and archivists in England in the twentieth century
Archives have the potential to change people’s lives. They are ‘a fundamental bulwark of our democracy, our culture, our community and personal identity’. They are created in the first instance for the ‘conduct of business and to support accountability’, but they also ‘meet the requirements of society for transparency and the protection of rights’, they underpin citizen’s rights in a democratic state and are the raw material of our history and memory. Archivists and records managers are the professionals responsible for ensuring that these qualities are protected and exploited for the public good. Do they belong to a mature profession, equipped for this challenge in the 21st century? This thesis seeks to understand how the archive profession in the United Kingdom (particularly in England) developed during the 19th and 20th centuries by examining the political and legislative context for archives, analysing how archival institutions developed in central and local government, business and in universities to preserve and provide access to records and archives, by considering the growth and influence of professional associations and support bodies and reviewing the education and training of archivists and records managers. None of these themes has previously been addressed in a comprehensive study and together they help answer the question of whether archivists display the characteristics of a fully mature profession or whether it is still an emerging profession. In conclusion the thesis makes recommendations to guide the development of the UK archive profession in the 21st century to enable it to reach its full potential and ensure that archives and archivists play their proper role in society.