B.W Higman


Personal journals have many attractions. The best of these texts detail everyday experience with an immediacy and purported veracity found wanting in narratives composed long after the event. Even more seductive, they are marked by a willingness to generalise about the components of a culture in ways that provide readymade models and assessments for an interpretative historiography. Compared to the barren records of financial history or the turgidity of legal documentation, journals are more likely to deliver the apposite aphorism and candid confession that can be immediately deployed in a telling turn of phrase. Although historians readily recognise the anecdotal hazards of such sources — coming as they do from a privileged literate class and often the creations of casual visitors — the temptations are too great for most to resist (Woodfine 185).



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