Archive for May 1st, 2012

Heartbreaks of the Archive

May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)



John-Paul Ghobrial, is a Cambridge historian who is working on the life of Elias of Babylon, a 17th century Christian traveler from Mesopotamia. He describes his project as ‘a microhistory about the first Ottoman traveller to South America, ca. 1670′ [see my blog post of March 22, 2012].

John-Paul has been following Elias’s footsteps around Spain for the last few weeks, and he recently sent an update:



Dear Amitav,

I’m just back from a month of archive-hopping in Spain.  The good news is that I managed to track down several of my needles in a haystack, in the form of more Eastern Christians in the Americas.  More importantly, I figured out that Elias spent the end of his life in a coastal town near Cadiz and. . . . I found a notary register FULL of documents about him.  As for the bad news, well. . . see attached.












You will understand what I mean when I tell you I used good old fashioned geniza techniques to figure out what letters I was looking at in an attempt to decipher partial words. 

















Heart-breaking in many ways but it all adds to the story, I guess.
















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