Evidence from the Archives of Societies: Documentary Evidence—Overview

  • Christian Pfister


Human archives contain three kinds of information: instrumental measurements, narrative data providing direct weather information, and observations of “proxies” providing indirect climate data. This documentary-based proxy evidence includes both plant and ice-phenological observations as well as historical hydrology, or observations of hydrological conditions and extremes before the creation of national hydrological networks. We can further classify these archives by their authors and circumstances of production. This chapter distinguishes between documents produced by members of official bodies (institutional sources) and those produced by individual amateur observers (personal sources), although some source types may belong to both categories. To assess and interpret these sources, researchers need to know who produced them, why, and how they recorded meteorological conditions and their human consequences.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Pfister
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of History, Oeschger Centre for Climate ChangeBernSwitzerland

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