Introduction

Historical recording of past events forms the basis of future and present day lives. History not only reveals the progress of a subject, but also the events, actions and influences of such past.

Historians analyze events and use evidence and other justifiable reasons to explain the influences of the past. History plays an important role in the social, cultural, political and other societal developments. History is at the heart of any subject and acts as a symbol of posterity and justifications of values held and belief systems.

The recording of historical events based on evidence however faces the issues of truth in terms of criticisms as to whether it represents an objective interpretation of the evidence provided. Records such as bibliographies are crucial for historians in their evaluation of characters, beliefs, values, interpretation of events and explanations for actions taken. Most historians agree that memoirs are at the heart of history recording and interpretation.

However, some philosophers argue that the use of memoirs to record past events creates subjectivity and questions the fairness and truth of such historical recording. Therefore, the merits and pitfalls of using memoirs to record past events are worth evaluating to establish an objective stand.

Memoir or biography as evidence for past events

This essay shall entail evaluating the merits and pitfalls of using memoirs in recording past events. The essay shall include the role that such memoirs play in history recording as well as the factors that influence their reliance and use as evidence in history recording.

The role of memoirs or biographies in history

Memoirs are basically personal recordings of the individual events and happenings that act as a trace of the life of such an individual. While people write memoirs for different personal reasons under different motivations, they still record the events of their life and other issues influencing them.

The role of memoirs in history recording is worth evaluating since it is from this role that their use can be justified or not based on personal interpretations. Memoirs have subsequently been used in recording of past accounts as Fowale points out.[1] Memoirs express the truth in history due to the fact that they are primary sources of evidence and as such the fairness expected of history.[2] The interpretation of historical events does not only rely on other recordings but memoirs play the role of such interpretation with the provision of a flow of events and the time coverage of such events.

History recording requires the explaining of human actions taken. Such human actions however include the evaluation of the beliefs, desires, principles held, values and opinions. These human actions are best interpreted using memoirs as they record the feelings, events and actions taken which represent the individual values, beliefs, opinions and desires.

Factors that influence the use of bibliographies in the recording of past events

The use of memoirs in recording of past events by historians is based on their judgments that such records would reveal their intended interpretation.

Evaluation of such factors is thus important in the essay since it lays the foundation of the importance and the reasons why such memoirs are used. The interpretation of historical events requires the reliance on such evidence as is linked to the events under discussion. Memoirs are classified as primary sources of historical evidence since they represent the actual event interpretation of the writer.

Further, they are classified into different types which permeate history recording.[3] The use of memoirs in history also stems from the advantage they have of reliability since most other sources of evidence are faced with issues of actual event description and loss of memory in event account.[4] Memoirs are of use where there are limited sources of evidence to account for past events and provide the different perspectives of history events.[5] The factors of using memoirs also are represented in the posterity they offer to history recording.[6]

Merits of using memoirs in recording of history

The use of memoirs in history recording is based on justified reasons which form the merits of such memoirs. The merits of using memoirs in history recording of past events incorporate the value they play in different fields of use of such history. The fact that memoirs are primary sources of evidence increases the validity of history sources since such recordings are not based on any secondary interpretations of information.

Memoirs also are necessary in history recording especially where there are limited sources of evidence hence can be used to record such events while they provide historical data from different perspectives and based on different events which increases the value and content of history.

Further, memoirs provide interpretation of actions and events while they provide the necessary chronological of events as described with the records of the times and dates.[7] Additionally, memoirs increase the reality of events recorded with the use of feelings. They increase the fields of application of historical research such as political, philosophical, language, social, economic and cultural interpretations increasing the use of historical data.[8]

Pitfalls of using memoirs in recording of past history

The use of memoirs in recording of historical events has been criticized from different perspectives. Firstly, memoirs are individualized and as such reliance on them would provide a biased view point especially where varying perspectives of different memoirs are used. Memoirs also are just recordings of such events as the writer deems necessary.[9] This means that some aspects written are just a mere expression of opinions which cannot be effectively applied for a group context.

While memoirs are not just used by historians, they elicit different interpretations from different users which are based on their own perceptions and other factors influencing their perceptions. This creates a conflict as to the interpretation to base on and contradicts the truth basis of history.[10] While memoirs are useful in the interpretation of past events, sometimes they do not represent rational explanations of actions which limit their application.

Historians have been criticized of trying to establish the causes of actions which are limited by memoirs due to the individual differences. Further, history based on emotions is not stable enough to stand the test of time. This is because memoirs are based on expression of the feelings of an individual which are influenced by different factors.[11] Memoirs are also prone to modifications by the individual writer especially based on changes of opinions due to more knowledge on the subject which cannot be clearly identified from them thus limiting their use.

Annotated Bibliography

Fowale, Tongkeh. Biography and historical writing: understanding the link between biography and history. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Fowale in this article provides an account of his support of the fact that biographies play a very important role in history. While he acknowledges that biographies provide the basis of historical accounts, he points out that much historical writing derives its sense of richness from biographies.

He examines the different characteristics and types of biographies as the individual, research based, critical and standard ones which influence the depth of their application and relevance to history writing. Fowale further identifies that most biographies serve as accounts of the legacy of an individual and are used for the purposes of posterity.

He observes that biographies not only provide accounts of an individual life but also permeate to the events, actions and the happenings of historical importance to the person. In the overall account, Fowale reveals his opinion that biographies are at the heart of history and influence the nature and purposes played by such history.

Gibney, Frank and Beth Cary. Senso: The Japanese remember the Pacific War: letters to the editor of Asahi Shimbun. New York: Sharpe, 1995.

Gibney and Cary provide the letters written by various people on the war. The letters of reference to this essay are “When I made Balloon Bombs” (181-182) and “Doesn’t seem too bad” (206-207). The first letter is by Sachiko, who was a student at the time of the war. It represents the process through which the author was involved in making balloon bombs and their subsequential use in the war.

The letter presents the anxiety of the war and provides records of dates and the events after the war. The second letter is by Naruo and presents the account of the war from the perspective of a sixth grade student. These letters provide the basis for discussion of the merits and pitfalls of memoirs in historical recording since both of them are forms of biographies.

McCullagh, Behan. The Truth of History. New York: Routledge, 1998.

McCullagh in this text explores the concept of truth in history. He acknowledges the various issues of truth that historians are faced with in their interpretation of historical evidence. These include the issues of post modern thoughts and modern relativism which limit the aspect of truth of history with the assertions that historians are subject to their personal interpretations, judgments, culture influences and other factors thus challenging history recording.

This assertion provides the thoughts on the pitfalls of memoirs. McCullagh however studies historical interpretations and explanations with the opinion that subjectivity and the multiple interpretations of history form the basis of the support of memoirs in terms of their merits in recording past events.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the advantages and disadvantages of history for life. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1980.

Nietzsche in this text explores the effect that historical knowledge has on the present life. In this exploration, Nietzsche is of the opinion that although animals live by instincts with no basis of history, historical accounts are very crucial for humans. Nietzsche asserts that history is worth studying not for the sake of it, but for purposes of enhancing the present life.

The historical accounts thus propel creativity and comparisons with the past. The text helps to achieve the analysis of the merits of memoirs and the role they play in history. The issue of appreciating history records is stipulated with the emphasis of the primary sources and the role they play in influencing other disciplines of study.

Minear, Richard. Through Japanese eyes / Richard H. Minear; Leon E. Clark, general editor: Ichiko in 1944. New York: Centre for International Training and Education, 1994.

This text presents a narration of the historical war account of Michio who was a dormitory manager and a faculty member in Ichiko which was then a prestigious high school in Japan. The events of the outbreak of the war are described with the students involved in labour and other military work. This account presents the feelings, anxiety and attitudes held towards the war.

It further establishes the issues of relationships especially between the students, local Japanese and the military. The account provides the chronologic account of the war, perspectives of the war from Michio as well as the interpretations held. This account is very important in the essay as it is more of a biography of Muchio and also establishes the relevance of such to history. This analysis helps in the evaluation of the merits and pitfalls of the memoirs.

Seaton, Philip. Japan’s contested war memories: the memory rifts in historical consciousness of the World War II. London: Routledge, 2007.

Seaton examines the struggles and issues facing modern day Japanese society which are linked to the history of the Second World War. It also explores the historical accounts of the relations Japan has with other nations. While criticizing the manner in which the memories of war are treated in the English language, Seaton explores the narrations and interpretations of the past based on the recordings on the war and such related memories. The book thus forms the basis for analyzing the pitfalls of memoirs and the diversity in interpretation of historical records which are part of the essay under discussion.

Seraphim, Franzika. War Memory and Social politics in Japan, 1945- 2005 (Harvard East Asian Monographs). Harvard: Harvard University Press Centre, 2008.

The author provides a historical account of the Second World War. This account overrides the opinions held that the Japanese have no war memory account. He argues that the Japanese people have memory accounts of the war and is of the belief that such accounts have influenced the approach of democracy in the nation leading to the high economic prospects.

The present conflicts have their origin on the memories together with the relations with other nations. The meaning of war is divergent while the issues of commemoration of war, teaching of history and other national symbols are still disputable.

This text provides the background for the role of history in the society. It also explores the influences of the interpretations of historical records much of which relate to such historical sources as memoirs which are liable to multiple interpretations. These are some of the pitfalls of memoirs.

Trefalt, Beatrice. Japanese Army stragglers and memories of the war in Japan, 1950- 1975. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Trefalt provides the discoveries that were made by the Japanese soldiers in the Pacific and the South East long after the end of the Second World War. These discoveries present the events about their return to Japan.

The text also represents the impact and influence they had on the people of Japan while showing the attitudes that have been changing towards the veterans of war as well as the families that had casualties during the war.

This book provides the memories the soldiers had during the war and this forms part of the historical literature showing the role of such writings in the present-day Japan. This text is relevant to the essay with the memories and discoveries made which form part of memoirs that are used in the historical accounts.

Bibliography

Fowale, Tongkeh. Biography and historical writing: understanding the link between biography and history. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Gibney, Frank and Beth Cary. Senso: The Japanese remember the Pacific War: letters to the editor of Asahi Shimbun. New York: Sharpe, 1995.
McCullagh, Behan. The Truth of History. New York: Routledge, 1998.
Minear, Richard. Through Japanese eyes / Richard H. Minear; Leon E. Clark, general editor: Ichiko in 1944. New York: Centre for International Training and Education, 1994.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the advantages and disadvantages of history for life. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1980.
Seaton, Philip. Japan’s contested war memories: the memory rifts in historical consciousness of the World War II. London: Routledge, 2007.
Seraphim, Franzika. War Memory and Social politics in Japan, 1945- 2005 (Harvard East Asian Monographs). Harvard: Harvard University Press Centre, 2008.
Trefalt, Beatrice. Japanese Army stragglers and memories of the war in Japan, 1950- 1975. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.
Tongkeh Fowale, Biography and historical writing: understanding the link between biography and history (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 4.
Behan McCullagh, The Truth of History (New York: Routledge, 1998), 13-14.
Tongkeh Fowale, Biography and historical writing: understanding the link between biography and history (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 6.
Philip Seaton, Japan’s contested war memories: the memory rifts in historical consciousness of the World War II (London: Routledge, 2007), 26.
Beatrice Trefalt, Japanese Army stragglers and memories of the war in Japan, 1950 1975 (London: Routledge, 2003), 17.
Friedrich Nietzsche, On the advantages and disadvantages of history for life (Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1980), 8-9.
Richard Minear, Through Japanese eyes / Richard H. Minear; Leon E. Clark, general editor: Ichiko in 1944 (New York: Center for International Training and Education, 1994), 119.
Franzika Seraphim, War Memory and Social politics in Japan, 1945- 2005 (Harvard East Asian Monographs) (Harvard: Harvard University Press Center, 2008), 59-60.
Frank Gibney and Beth Cary, Senso: The Japanese remember the Pacific War: letters to the editor of Asahi Shimbun (New York: Sharpe, 1995), 181.
Behan McCullagh, The Truth of History (New York: Routledge, 1998), 14.
Richard Minear, Through Japanese eyes / Richard H. Minear; Leon E. Clark, general editor: Ichiko in 1944 (New York: Center for International Training and Education, 1994), 121.