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Historisches Seminar

Crime in the Archives

CRIME IN THE ARCHIVES: Tracking down a blasphemer

How do historians research in the archives? This film offers answers.

Anyone researching the past is dependent on historical documents, pictures and artefacts. Most of these sources are now kept in archives. In historical research, investigating in the archives is similar to tracking at a crime scene, with all the surprises, discoveries and unpredictabilities associated with solving a criminal case.

CRIME IN THE ARCHIVES sets out to track down the Zurich general Johann Rudolf Werdmüller, who was charged in the 17th century with making blasphemous speeches and committing treason. What can we discover in the archives about blasphemy in the Early Modern era? How does the formulation of a historical question develop? Why is historiography a science of the present?

This lively and practice-oriented German-language film with English subtitles introduces techniques of investigation and historical research. Court records, petitions, pictures and letters are used to illustrate how handwritten material is dealt with.  The film is intended for prospective historians and any others interested in detective work in the archives.

Weiterführende Informationen


Universität Zürich
Historisches Seminar
Prof. Dr. Francisca Loetz
Karl Schmid-Strasse 4
CH-8006 Zürich
Tel: +41 (0)44 634 40 95
Büro KO2-G262

Nadja Koch
Tel.+41 (0)44 634 40 98
Büro KO2-G264


Screenplay: Francisca Loetz, with ideas from Siegfried Bodenmann, Rolf Frey and Eva Seemann

Text advisor: Wolfram Schneider-Lastin

Speakers: Maja Hermann, Marco Caduff

Camera & editing: Rolf Frey

Sound mixing: Azmi Baumann, MELS/University of Zurich

Drawing UZH logo: Tom Reed

Production: art-tv, Zurich.

With thanks to: Department for digital teaching and research, Philosophical Faculty, University of Zurich; conference centre  Au Castle; state archive, Canton of Zurich; central Library, Zurich; Leuchtturm film lighting.

Translation/Subtitles: Rosemary Selle

© Universität Zürich, 2017