A few years ago, one hot, dry summer—wonderful for swimming in the lakes or strolling by the river—I found myself in Berlin, busy with archival research. I was writing about humiliation during the years of the German Democratic Republic. I needed to find examples that would broaden my understanding of the nature of humiliation and the way it was used by a dictatorial regime. My favoured archive had eight thousand biographical items that “ordinary people” had deposited there, including letters, diaries, memoirs, and all the pieces of supporting evidence writers love to get their hands on: school notebooks and poetry albums; work diaries; formal deeds and documents proving birth and death, and finally wills.