Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds: Everyday Life and Narrative Sources (France 1939-1945) - special issue

Lindsey Dodd, Wendy Michallat

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


The time may well seem distant when personal testimonies, letters and diaries, oral and written memoirs were mistrusted as sources in historical scholarship because they were regarded as too subjective, too partisan and too partial to have credibility. Notwithstanding resistance from some quarters, over the last twenty-five or so years, numerous historians have rebutted the naysaying and actively looked to personal stories to open or re-open lines of enquiry and new areas of research. Such sources, whether described as "life writing", "life history", "documents of life", "ego-documents" or "narrative sources", have an intrinsic and undeniable historical value. On one hand, they can serve as explanatory illustrations of widely-accepted historical facts, deepening, broadening or consolidating a particular point or perspective. On the other, they have a more profound, generative value. They are epistemologically revolutionary, reshaping what it is possible to know. They create new ideas, they open new fields for research, they bring new historical actors into the frame; what is more, they may well challenge dominant versions of the past - whether scholarly, public or both - which have, by dint of their articulation and reiteration through influential realms of power such as media or commemorative practices, fixed biased and non-inclusive narratives in the popular consciousness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-11
Number of pages5
JournalEssays in French Literature and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


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