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New book: Record-Making and Record-Keeping in Early Societies

6 May 2021 3:52 PM | Deleted user

Have you ever wondered how record-keeping began?

A new book by Geoffrey Yeo, Record-Making and Record-Keeping in Early Societies, investigates the beginnings of human recording practices and provides a survey of early record-making and record-keeping in societies across the world. It investigates the ways in which human activities were recorded in different settings using different methods and technologies.

Many archivists are familiar with Ernst Posner’s Archives in the Ancient World, published in 1972; but this book is substantially different. Posner began his story with the invention of writing about 5000 years ago, but the first records were made long before writing came into use, and Record-Making and Record-Keeping in Early Societies explores non-written as well as written records. Posner’s study was limited to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, but Record-Making and Record-Keeping in Early Societies also investigates record-making and record-keeping in many other parts of the world, particularly China and the pre-Hispanic Americas. Research into early recording practices has advanced considerably in recent decades, and the book draws on recent scholarship in archaeology and anthropology, as well as recent thinking in archival science.

Based on analysis of literature from a wide range of disciplines, Record-Making and Record-Keeping in Early Societies offers a distinctive perspective on early archives. It aims, not merely to describe the variety of recording methods and practices used in different societies at different times, but also to engage with a range of questions about the contexts in which those practices arose and the ways in which we might understand and interpret them.

Geoffrey Yeo is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Information Studies at University College London in the UK, a member of the editorial board of Archivaria, and a former Visiting Professor at the University of British Columbia.

The book is available in hard covers and also as an e-book. For more details, see

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