More Plain Words: On Toxins, Diaries and Safe Houses as Data

Michael Schoenhals's picture

Back in 1994, I read a wonderful book (to which Tim Cheek had drawn my attention), an anthology edited by Robin W. Winks entitled The Historian as Detective: Essays on Evidence (Harper Torchbooks, 1968). I realize that the judicious study of evidence has since come to be seen as rather ”old school” or ”retro” and that facts no longer carry quite the same weight as does, for example, faith. But anyway, I was reminded of Winks and his book when I stumbled across the following explanation, in a Chinese document from 1950, of what the term 材料 may refer to:

…材料是非常宝贵的。什么是材料呢?我们认为凡属有形的,确实的,和在分析一个事件上具有一定价值的东西,就可视为材料。这样看来,他的范围是很广泛的,简单说来可分为物证、人证、事证三种,每种之中,又可分做许多。例如:就物证来说,文件、档案、书信、日记、像片、草稿、党证、奖状、钱财、毒物、爆燃材料、枪伤、尸、血、印章、指纹、通信接头人地点、化学写信、规定暗号、代号、密码、隐语等等。材料是遍地可以觅取,随时可以搜寻的,它的能否获得就在是否有心力求获得,这是个至关要紧的问题。

摘自刊登于西南局公安部1950年7月编印《公安保卫工作业务参考材料选集》(第一辑上编)的《侦察工作讲授纲要》,pp. 5-6

Is there not something delightfully post-modern about this quirky lecture text?