Pier M. Larson Archive
Scope and Contents
The Pier M. Larson Archive consists of 35.6 linear feet (69 document boxes, 5 cartons, 5 oversize boxes, 1 map-case drawer), and 2.05 TB of academic and research materials of Dr. Pier Martin Larson (1961-2020), including both traditional and born-digital materials spanning 1985 to 2020—from the field research for his dissertation to the work in progress at the time of his death. The collection is made up of working files containing field notes, photographs, maps, manuscripts, drafts, and more used by Larson in his research, writing, and teaching during his over 35 years of professional activity. The collection has been arranged into 7 series, 1. Biographical Materials, 1989-2020), 2. Academic Career (1985-2020), 3. Field Research and Research Projects (1986-2020), 4. Archival Research and Work (1989-2020), 5. Publications (1990-2020), 6. Background and Secondary Research Materials (1988-2020), and 7. Larson Fieldwork Collection (Audiovisual Materials) (1990-2011).
The range of languages in the collection reflects Larson as a multilingual person who was fluent in English, French, Malagasy, and conversant and able to read in Norwegian and Kiswahili, and includes materials in Portuguese, Danish, Arabic, Nago, Latin, Malay and Swedish.
In his research work, Larson worked with research assistants and translators, and the materials reflect this aspect of his practice. His research and translation assistant during his Fulbright Program was Pamphile Rakotonjohany Rakotovelo, who worked with Larson for four months. “Rojo” was another assistant he collaborated with. Both of their works were essential to Larson’s transcription and translation project, and later to his data statistics and much more. Correspondence and personal notes with various archives and other researchers also reflect his devoted interest and relationship with the history and culture of slavery relating to social class, gender, race, descent group identity, and diaspora in Madagascar.
Series 1. Biographical Materials (1989-2020) includes his CV and multiple academic obituaries written and published at the time of Larson’s death, and anecdotes from colleagues.
Series 2. Academic Career (1985-2020) is grouped into 5 sub-series (1. Teaching materials; 2. Presentations and conferences; 3. Editorial and consultation work; 4. Undergraduate work, University of Minnesota; 5. Research and reference materials) with detailed preparation works for presentations, conferences, editorial work, consultation work, courses and class lectures that Larson had done for international and national organizations, publishers, institutions, and especially for the Johns Hopkins University where he taught from 1998 to 2020, and the Pennsylvania State University where he taught from 1994 to 1998.
Series 3. Field Research and Research Projects (1986-2020) is grouped into 3 sub-series (1. PhD and Fulbright field research; 2. Post-PhD field research; 3. Research projects) with materials from Larson’s PhD and Fulbright field research and post-PhD field research. This series contain materials that formed the basis of Larson's PhD dissertation, Making Ethnic Tradition in a Pre-Colonial Society: Culture, Gender, and Protest in the Early Merina Kingdom, 1750-1822 (1992), and of his first book, History and Memory in the Age of Enslavement: Becoming Merina in Highland Madagascar, 1770-1822(2000). Various materials in this series demonstrate Larson's methods and methodologies, such as on-site observation and snowball sampling that are reflective in his handwritten notebooks, photographs, color video footages, and oral history audio tapes and transcriptions. This series also includes Larson’s international and national site visit photographs, including contemporary visual studies of historic locations studied in Larson’s work. This extensive collection of 49.5 GB of images from decades of Larson’s national and international travels reflect his research focus on the history of Africa as well as his study of African art and the meaning of its exhibition in western museums.
Series 4. Archival Research and Work (1989-2020) is grouped into 7 sub-series (1. Archival materials documentations; 2. Catalogs; 3. Larson Fieldwork Collection transcriptions and notes; 4. Map collection; 5. Articles; 6. High Resolution Photo Archives (HRPA); 7. Transcriptions of Archival Documents in HRPA folder) with materials pertaining to Larson’s extensive archival research and his contribution to archives, such as the catalog he developed on documents written in Madagascar between 1866 and 1899 from the Norwegian Missionary Society archives, scanned and photographed archival materials, microfiches, oversize maps, transcriptions, translations, and notes. Larson had visited and utilized international and national archival collections in places such as Madagascar, France, La Réunion, New Zealand, London, Wales, Norway, Mauritius, and Johannesburg.
Series 5. Publications (1990-2020) is grouped into 3 sub-series (1. Publishing-related materials; 2. Last project-related materials; 3. Unpublished Manuscripts) with detailed preparation works for Larson’s publications and publishing career, such as his 1995-2010 published essays, writing drafts and notes, photographs, maps, tables and illustrations, a wooden relief portrait of King of Madagascar (1810-1828) Radama I “The Great” 1793-1828), research articles, inventories, and exhaustive research data and notes. This series also contains materials that had been kept on Larson’s working desk before his passing.
Series 6. Background and Secondary Research Materials (1988-2020) is physically the largest series and is grouped into 4 sub-series (1. Narrative of enslaved people research materials; 2. Diaspora research materials; 3. 17th-21st Century research materials; 4. Various research materials (by author)). These materials are arranged into two largest distinct research Larson did: narrative of enslaved people and diaspora research, two organization systems when these materials are donated: by year, from 17th to 21st century and by author. Throughout these materials, Larson took detailed notes and comments with underlined notations.
The last series, Series 7. Larson Fieldwork Collection (Audiovisual Materials) (1990, 2007, 2011, and undated) is grouped into 3 sub-series by format (1. VHS tapes; 2. Video cassettes; 3. DVDs). These materials are VHS tape that were digitized by collection donor, 8mm video cassette tapes with video register, and DVDs with footages that are integrated into other series: Academic Career (1985-2020), Field Research and Research Projects (1986-2020), Archival Research and Work (1989-2020).
- Larson, Pier Martin (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations. 76 born-digital files in this collection containing sensitive information have been embargoed until 2053.
Biographical / Historical
Pier Larson, renowned scholar of African history, was born in Paris to American educators. He spent his childhood in Madagascar. He came to the United States in 1980 for university training. He lived in the United States in his adult life until his death in 2020 at the age of 58. He was married to Michelle Laura Boardman.
As a respected professor and historian in African history, Larson spoke English, French, Malagasy and conversant and able to read in Norwegian and Kiswahili. Larson first received his B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 1985, then received his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1987 and 1992 respectively. His Ph.D. dissertation was titled Making Ethnic Tradition in a Pre-Colonial Society: Culture, Gender, and Protest in the Early Merina Kingdom, 1750-1822. He carried out his Ph.D. field research via the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant in 1989, and would later continue to receive various fellowships and awards, including being a finalist for the 2010 Melville Herskovits book prize in all disciplines of African Studies, The African Studies Association of the U.S., for his 2009 book, Ocean of Letters: Language and Creolization in an Indian Ocean Diaspora (Cambridge University Press).
Larson’s interests revolved around Africa in world history. His teaching and research revolved around the history of East and Southern Africa, Madagascar, and the Francophone islands of the Western Indian Ocean, slavery, literacy, religion, and the history of the French Empire. He specialized in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands, focusing on social, cultural, and intellectual history. His scholarship was based on extensive research in archives throughout Europe, East Africa and the Indian Ocean, and he was known for his extensive use of Malagasy documents as well as interviews with local informants.
Larson worked as a visiting assistant professor at Stanford University (1993-1994), assistant professor at the Pennsylvania State University (1994-1998), visiting professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Madagascar, Antananarivo (2012-2020), assistant professor (1998-2003), and as associate professor (2003-2008), and professor (2008-2020) at Johns Hopkins University. At the Zanvyl Krieger School of the Arts and Sciences (of Johns Hopkins University), he served as the director for the International Studies Program (2013-2014), vice dean for Humanities and Social Sciences (2013-2015), and program chair for Master of Liberal Arts Program, Advanced Academic Programs (2013-2020). On top of his commitments to research institutions, he carried out editorial and consultation work for international and national organizations, such as the Journal of Natal and Zulu History and Centre for Research on Slavery and Indenture (University of Mauritius).
Larson was a highly detailed-oriented person and had a passion for archival work. He created catalogs with transcriptions and translations for archive collections and materials that he utilized for his research, and he was committed to his own field research and data, investing time and energy into them throughout his life. His vast collection of discourse research also reflects his devotion to details; he jotted notes and comments to expand and challenge the discourses in his field, and engaged in intersectional work that benefits his research.
After his first book History and Memory in the Age of Enslavement: Becoming Merina in Highland Madagascar, 1770-1822. (Portsmouth: Heinemann; Oxford, U.K.: James Currey; Cape Town, South Africa: David Philip, 2000), he continued to publish Ratsitatanina’s Gift: A Tale of Malagasy Ancestors and Language in Mauritius. (Réduit: University of Mauritius Press, 2009) and Ocean of Letters: Language and Creolization in an Indian Ocean Diaspora. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). Before his death, he had finished preparation works for his fourth book, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic in an African Kingdom (Madagascar) & The Corrollers: An Indian Ocean Family (France, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, South Asia). On top of book publishing, his writings also exist as journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, and encyclopedia entries.
Larson’s interest in pedagogy was also prominent; he spent efforts on the variety of courses he taught, from introduction classes to electives, from senior seminars to graduate seminars, from directing undergraduate theses students to Ph.D. students, from sitting on Ph.D. committees to writing pages after pages for his colleagues’ recommendation letters.
During his life Larson collaborated with numerous colleagues, students, travelers, locals, organizations, and institutions to contribute to the international discourses of Madagascar, Africa, and beyond.
35.6 Linear Feet (69 document boxes, 5 cartons, 5 oversize boxes, 1 map-case drawer)
2.05 Terabytes (26 DVDs, 1 hard drive)
Language of Materials
The Pier M. Larson Archive consists of 35.6 linear feet (69 document boxes, 5 cartons, 5 oversize boxes, 1 map-case drawer), and 2.05 TB of academic and research materials of Dr. Pier Martin Larson (1961-2020), including both traditional and born-digital materials spanning 1985 to 2020—from the field research for his dissertation to the work in progress at the time of his death.
Collection is arranged into 7 series by topic and format: 1. Biographical Materials (1989-2020), 2. Academic Career (1985-2020), 3. Field Research and Research Projects (1986-2019), 4. Archival Research and Work (1989-2020), 5. Publications (1990-2020), 6. Discourse Research (1988-2020), and 7. Larson Fieldwork Collection (Audiovisual Materials) (1990, 2007, 2011, and undated). Born-digital materials are integrated through the collection into their correspondence series based on content. In some instances, file names are updated for coherency reasons.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Collection was donated by Michelle Boardman in 2021-2022 (accession number AFRI 2021-1).
Harmful Content Statement
Collection contains harmful materials in “Instructional” and “[Musée da Silva, Porto Novo, Benin]“ (Series 4. Archival Research and Work, Sub-series High Resolution Photos Archives); “[Celebrations 2]” (Series 3. Field Research and Research Projects, Sub-series PhD and Fulbright field research, Sub-sub-series Footages); “Enslavement Images” (Series 3. Field Research and Research Projects, Sub-series Research Projects); “1876 Ellis - Faithful unto Death” (Series 6. Background and Secondary Research Materials, Sub-series 17th-21st Century research materials).
Acronym and Abbreviation Key
AAMM = Antananarivo Annual and Madagascar Magazine (Journal of the LMS in Madagascar) ACLS = American Council of Learned Societies Add. Mss.: related to identifiers for collected microfilm AHA = American Historical Association AMBAT = Archives of the SPG at Ambatoharanana, Madagascar ANM = Archives Nationales de Madagascar ANOM = Archives nationales d'outre-mer ASA = African Studies Association APM = Andrianampoinimerina BAM = Bulletin de l'Académie Malgache BEIC = British East India Company BFBS = British and Foreign Bible Society BM = Bulletin de Madagascar BNF = Bibliothèque nationale de France CARAN = Centre d'Accueil et de Recherche des Archives Nationales COACM = Collection Des Ouvrages Anciens Concernant Madagascar FFMA = Friends Foreign Mission Association FLM/NMA = Archives of the NMS, Isoraka, Antananarivo GMSS = Grey New Zealand Māori Manuscript Collectio IO = Indian Ocean LMS = London Missionary Society Mad = Madagascar MODB = Madagaskar og dets beboere NAB = National Archives of Britain NARA = National Archives and Records Administration NMS = Norwegian Missionary Society NMT = Norsk Misjons-Tidende OSA = Omaly sy Anio (Hier et aujourd'hui) PRO = Public Record Office (now The National Archives, UK) SHD = Service historique de la Défense (Lorient, France) SOAS = School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London TNR = Tananarive TSTD = Transatlantic Slave Trade Database VAK = Vakinankaratra
- Guide to the Pier M. Larson Archive, 1984-2020
- 2023 March
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Part of the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies Repository
Main Library, 5th Floor, East Tower
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US