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Batches and Collections of ARM

Even though one can find in the National Archives the oldest and most valuable documents of various royal and ecclesiastical institutions that had part in the administration of this archipelago, the Madeira Regional Archives (ARM) conserves documentation of great interest for the historical and cultural studies of the Atlantic Portuguese culture.  Since Madeira was the first island found by the navigators of the 16th century and the headquarters of the first overseas Portuguese bishopric, having developed multiple relationships with the Realm, the cities of the North Sea, the Mediterranean and with other Atlantic islands.

This is a very diversified group of batches, which makes it possible to get different perspectives:  the official perspective (seen in the legislation and in the documentation produced by various institutions, under the Old Regime and later, after the establishment of the Republic); the private sector’s perspective (pre-eminent families, notable figures, various associations and businesses); and, finally, the ecclesiastical perspective of the Catholic Church, which has always played a role of major importance among us, in governing our souls, in assisting the poor and the sick, in education and even in the administration of justice.  The history of the mentality and customs cannot be studies without consulting the batches of the convents and monasteries of the Seraphic Order, for getting to know the circumstances of the foundations and the evident evolution in the loyalty to the Rules and in the practice of Christian virtues.  Amongst other books, the archives of the parishes (the importance of which is clearly understood) include the records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, as well as those of numerous brotherhoods, through which the Christian people contributed to the splendour of the worship and performed acts of mercy. In relation to the Presbyterian Church and the English Church of Madeira, the Regional Archives only keeps the parish records mentioned above (those of the English Church being on microfilm).

The archives of the municipal councils, with emphasis on series like the general registers, the books of municipal orders and the acts of the town councils, allow one to analyse the most varied aspects of life and of the administration of the archipelago since the 15th century. Also batches from the Mercy charity institutions and the Shelter of Bom Jesus are rich sources for the study of the daily life of the Madeirans, especially in regard to the assistance to the needy and the hospital services from the 16th century. The archives of municipal administrations (Funchal, Calheta, Ponta do Sol, Porto Santo, Santa Cruz and São Vicente) cover a period that is relatively short but rich in events, confrontations and very significant alterations (1834-1946). The archives of the Governors and Captains-General (1683-1834) and of the Civil Government (1834-1975) document the relationship with the Central Government, and also the Junta Geral of the District of Funchal (1836-1976), which is fundamental for the study of the policies of the New State. 

The personal estates and the family archives offer a source of relevant information for the study of many different subjects.  This would not only include the personality and the action of distinguished figures such as Archbishop D. Aires de Ornelas Vasconcelos, the genealogist, Henrique Henriques de Noronha, Father Fernando Augusto da Silva or the Viscount of Porto da Cruz but it also includes the genealogy of Madeiran families, or regimes for property transfer and use (sharecropping and entailment).  The Church competed with the Crown in keeping an eye on the administrators of entailed property.  They would intervene, on the one hand, to preserve the dignity of the worship, and on the other hand, to guarantee the wishes of the institutors.  The procedures for taking charge of chapels illustrate the overlapping of jurisdictions and the institutional dynamics of the Court of Ecclesiastical Residue and the Court of Residues and Chapels, a court whose activity was marked by cases of corruption and frequent confrontations with administrators and with the ecclesiastical and civil authorities. 






Among some of the oldest notaries are João and Manuel Tavira de Cartas (Funchal, 16th century), Bastião Álvares and Luís Álvares Riscado (Ribeira Brava, 16th century) and André Freitas (Porto Santo, 17th century). Priority was given to the treatment of the notary batches, but also those of the parishes and courts, as being the most frequently consulted. 
The batches of two teaching institutions were incorporated into this archive: that of the Little German School (Escolinha Alemã), founded in 1955 by Dr. Sara de Portugal da Silveira Henriques de Freitas, the former Director of Services of Libraries and Archives, and the interesting archives of the School of Surgical Medicine of Funchal. Despite the difficulties and conflicts that marked its functioning from 1837 until 1910, when it closed, the School of Surgical Medicine graduated two hundred doctors.
The collection of genealogies includes some peerage books that belong to different family archives and was established to facilitate the providing of information about ancestors and descendents of Madeirans, a highly requested service. 
The collection of newspapers includes the collection donated by Diário de Notícias, and special mention goes to the first periodical published in Madeira, A Patriota Funchalense (1821); more than 240 titles illustrate the political battles between the party lines that had local expression in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The library of the Regional Archives includes an abundant bibliography on Christopher Columbus, an interesting collection of guides and reports on voyages and other collections of antique books,  many of which were originally owned by the Bishopric of Funchal, specifically Bishop D. Gaspar Afonso da Costa Brandão, the libraries of Nuno de Freitas Lomelino and Dr. Nuno de Vasconcelos Porto.  This last library contains some fundamental reference works such as “PORTUGALIAE MONUMENTA HISTORICA”, editions of sources of the Academy of Science of Lisbon, monographs of established authors on various and fascinating aspects and figures of National History and on the Portuguese Artistic Heritage, besides the significant collection of works and documents on the Company of Jesus and others on the city of Lisbon.

Besides the ordinances and laws issued by the kings of Portugal, the Regional Archives keeps a collection of the legislation produced between 1769 and 1926.  This collection of legislation is fundamental to the study of the institutional history and politics of our country from the illuminated despotism to the turning, from the battles between partisans of the Revolution and of the Counter-Revolution, between the Chartists and the Septembrists, who marked the installation of liberalism and the agony of the monarchy, leading to the 1st Republic.  It also includes volumes of the Legislative and Jurisprudence Review, embracing the periods of 1868 to 1881 and 1901 to 1903.  Other examples included in this collection are the Court Journals between 1821 and 1823, volumes of the Journal of the House of Peers of the Realm (1879 and 1884), the Journal of the Chamber of Deputies (1879), as well as the Administrative Code and statutes of the Autonomous Districts of the Adjacent Islands (1941).

The collection of sundry documents includes more than 1600 manuscripts, many of which are still unidentified.  One day they will be integrated into the various batches.  Special attention is made to the letters of the Dukes of Viseu and the royal decrees, such as the letter of D. Sebastião determining that the succession of the sugar lands would be carried out under the regime of entailed property (22.09.1562). This collection contains much more recent but equally interesting documents, like the inventory of the real estate of Manuel Caetano Pimenta de Aguiar. 
A current project is the treatment of the lithographs, post cards and photographs that illustrate the Madeiran daily life of the 19th and 20th centuries, the urban and rural constructed patrimony, and the artistic heritage of the islanders.

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