For many historians, personal writings—whether correspondence, diary, or autobiography—are primarily of value as testimony. They become interesting to the scholar in proportion as they relate events (revolts, wars, celebrations, etc.) that the witnesses themselves often knew to be part of history. Personal papers can also illustrate the stages of a life that reveal shared experiences of members of a profession, a community, or some other group. The historian characteristically, though not always, tries to work with the text to reach the experience and its interpretation by the writer.
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