FROM PARCHMENT ROLLS TO OPTICAL DISCS
Read the text. Translate it (orally). Make use of the Notes and the Vocabulary.
1. A public record is any physical relic which conveys information about government transaction, whether it is a notched stick recording a debt of a few shillings to the medieval Exchequer, a scribbled note by a Tudor king or a formal Cabinet minute. The Public Record Office holds the records of the central law courts as well as those of the business of direct ruling; in earlier times the functions were inextricably linked.
2. Most public records are written on parchment or paper in manuscript or, equally in recent years, typescript, but increasingly electrostatic copies are to be found and electronic records on tapes and discs are also being transferred for preservation.
3. The records span 900 years, the earliest being that phenomenal survey of the kingdom conducted by William the Conqueror which the Anglo-Saxons nicknamed “Domesday”. With no revolutionaries or invaders to destroy them, the queen’s records have remained virtually intact from the early middle ages. Until the mid-nineteenth century they were kept, by and large, in the office or courts which created them. When the cupboards and shelves started to overflow, they might be sent off to be stored somewhere else. Access was restricted in a rather haphazard way; there were as many record keepers as there were repositories, and each guarded his charges jealously. Only the tenacious and the relentlessly inquisitive could get to see them and use them for historical or legal purposes.
4. With the nineteenth century came stirrings of a scientific approach to history and a new consciousness of the importance of original sources. Between 1800 and 1837 six royal Commissions agonized over the problem of the state archives. In 1838 the Public Record Office was established by Act of Parliament, to take care and control of the legal records, Exchequer and fourteen years later all departmental rec