Opening Jerusalem Archives: for a connected history of ‘Citadinité’ in the Holy City (1840-1940)

IMG_5699• Jerusalem is undoubtedly one of the cities that receives the most attention from historians, but the available bibliography, generally speaking, is plagued by three major flaws. First, most studies are devoted either to ancient and medieval history, or to the very recent history of the city (after the 1948 War). The Ottoman period (1517-1917) and the British Mandate (1917-1947) are decidedly less studied, as though only the Bible, the Crusades, and then the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were worthy of interest. The second flaw stems in part from the first : the overwhelming majority of existing studies focus on religious and geopolitical aspects of the city’s history and thus Jerusalem appears either as a jumble of shrines or as a battlefield. The third flaw is the cause of the other two: most Jerusalem historians limit their studies to the history of only one community of the Holy City, thus contributing to the creation of a segmented historical narrative that precludes a more sweeping view of the city.

• The history of Jerusalem, which is doubtlessly the epitome of the “global city” and should consequently benefit from recent historiographic advances in connected history, instead remains one of the most fragmented histories anywhere. As a consequence, the citadinité (“urban citizenship”) shared by the inhabitants of Jerusalem from 1840’s Ottoman’s Reforms to 1940’s War, is invisible in the available bibliography.

• Yet truly decompartmentalizing Jersualem’s historiographies means finding ways of opening up and interconnecting its archives, an idea that is central in this research proposal. Supported and funded by an European institution reputed for its neutrality and stability (ERC), this project will distinguish itself through the scientific quality of its research tools, the close attention it pays to local administrative archives and its unbiased openness to all demographic segments of the Holy City’s population. Last but not least, it will not limit itself to a logistical initiative but will scientifically utilize those sources as part of a real intellectual proposal intended to produce a connected history of citadinité in Jerusalem from 1840 to 1940.