Archives of urban pollution

The advent of the “anthropocene” has contributed in recent years to putting the issues of air, water and soil pollution on the political and social agenda. Industrial diseases such as structural pollution (lead, asbestos, arsenic, mercury, etc.) have a considerable impact on urban societies and, widely publicized in the mass media and social networks, are part of the widespread crisis of confidence that weakens the governance of urban metropoles. The distrust of civil society is all the more paradoxical since environmental expertise data is available for the most recent periods, in the form of specialized reports or databases.

On the other hand, it is more complex to access archival resources on these problems, even though pollution issues have been the subject of public policies since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. If archival inventories exist, they are very rarely put online. The constitution of research corpuses remains partly artisanal, researchers having to dig through the depths of departmental or municipal funds. It is therefore necessary to put the history of archives on the different forms of urban pollution into perspective, which will make it possible to identify the most important documentary collections, but also to understand the evolution of data-producing services over the long period of the industrial revolution.

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