Robert-Henri Bautier (1922-2010)


With the death of Robert-Henri Bautier, ICA has lost one of its great pioneering figures.


A man of scholarship and a man of action, Robert-Henri Bautier personified the conviction that the theory and practice of archival science advanced through international co-operation. Charles Braibant, elected President in 1950, entrusted him with the mission of planning the programme and animating the intellectual activity of the International Council on Archives. He created a permanent fire work display out of the programme for a good ten years or so. His first task consisted in positioning ICA in the continuity of the efforts at international cooperation of the inter-war years by preparing the Select Bibliography of Guides to Archives, as a follow-up to the International Guide to Archives, published in 1934. In order to exist internationally, the profession needed to know its intellectual production. Bautier provided it with the annotated international bibliography of Archivum and, in order to realize this, he obtained for the journal contributions from almost all professional periodicals and finding aids published in many countries. The profession also owes to him its first International Directory of Archives, published as a volume of Archivum.

As a scholar and an archivist, his intention was to preserve a classic professional culture based on the auxiliary sciences of history. The Elsevier vocabulary of archival terminology, the work of which he coordinated, represented the sum total of this culture. His fidelity to tradition was complemented by an infallible sense of priorities and a capacity to anticipate the priorities of tomorrow. The themes which he chose for the inquiries of the journal in the 1950s - notarial archives, civil registration records, archive buildings - filled significant gaps in professional culture.

Charles Braibant created the International Conference of the Round Table on Archives (CITRA) in 1954 and entrusted Bautier with managing it. Once again, he had to select themes of general interest which he foresaw would be important for the future of archives. Thus in 1961, six years before the International Law Commission of the United Nations and thirteen years before the UNESCO General Conference, the CITRA in Warsaw  examined the importance of repairing the international law on archives which had been destroyed by the Second World War. Anticipating the imminence of decolonization, Bautier proposed in 1958, to UNESCO, that work should be started on the Guide to the Sources for the History of Nations, in order to open up for research by the newly independent countries the records of European archives which related to their history and thereby to contribute to the deepening of their roots in historical continuity.


As the decades go by, ICA must remain faithful to the heritage of Robert-Henri Bautier: intellectual rigour in order to arrive at excellence, the concern to be ready to face up to the problems of tomorrow, and an unrelenting attachment to the idea that, in our professional domain, progress can only be made if it is founded on the common endeavour of archivists  throughout the world.

In addition to his distinguished career in French archives - at the National Archives, the Directorate of the Archives of France and latterly the Ecole des Chartes - he also played a key role in the early history of ICA. As secretary of the periodical ARCHIVUM in the 1950s, he compiled bibliographies of archival publications and directories of archival institutions.

He had a keen interest in training and delivered a paper on this subject at the Second International Congress on Archives at the Hague in 1953. He also worked on the preparation of a vocabulary of archival terminology. His activities were very influential in shaping ICA publications for many decades thereafter.


Robet-Henri Bautier was an honorary life member of ICA. It is intended to publish a fuller tribute to him as soon as possible.