Falling in love with the dead

The ability of an emotional engagement – perhaps an entanglement – to bring the past into the present is the subject of this paper. If acknowledging that historians feel emotions whilst doing research is hardly new, the critical capacities of such emotion are under-explored, particularly for those of us who work with the dead. In exploring the issues raised by emotions in archival research, I engage with similar conversations by scholars in a range of disciplines, from the work on ‘archive fever’, to subjectivity and research ethics, to affective memory, to histories of reading and mourning. I use this scholarship to explore my attempt to fall in love with the highly unlikeable Scottish banker Gilbert Innes of Stowe (1751–1832), arguing for the importance of a critical assessment of our emotional response as a productive contribution to historical knowledge-making.