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Memoirs as Historical Sources


Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Jung, Chang Woo
Term Paper, Seminar History of Historiography, December 2010



Table of Contents


I. Introduction
II. Definition
III. Goal and Method of Study
III.1 Goal of Study
III.2 Way of Approaching
III.3 Content Source
IV. History of Memoirs
IV.1 Before and in the 18th Century
IV.2 19th Century and 20th Century
IV.3 Since the Mid-20th Century
V. Types of Memoirs
VI. Difference from other Autobiographic Writings
VI.1 Personal Essay
VI.2 Diary
VII. Study of Memoirs
VII.1 General Features
VII.2 Examples of Memoirs about Napoleon Bonaparte
VII.3 Examples of Holocaust Memoirs
VII.4 Examples of the Battle of Iwo Jima Memoirs
VII.5 In What Way do Memoirs Contribute to Historical Research
VIII. Source Criticism on Memoirs
VIII.1 Validity of Memoirs
VIII.2 Bias in Memoirs
IX. Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography



I. Introduction
            When the memoirs first appeared in history, most of them were the works of people who had social power or fame. Those early works mostly covered the important political events, significant expeditions, or wars which those authors experienced during their lifetime. However, before the memoirs were considered as one of the distinct autobiographic genres, they usually concentrated on the objective description of historical events. Over time, more and more people who wanted to leave the records of important events or memories in their lives started to write memoirs. Since then, memoirs began to depict countless historical events with peculiar perspectives of diverse authors. Today, there are numerous memoirs in the world, describing various events and figures based on the authors¡¯ life experience with unique viewpoints. In some cases, there are several memoirs which cover the same topic with distinctively different points of view. The main purpose of this paper is to seek the differences of several memoirs on certain topics, and measure the possibility of using the puzzle-pieced memoirs as useful historical sources by integration.

II. Definition
            In this paper, "Memoir" is the term which denotes a piece of autobiographical writing, usually shorter in nature than a comprehensive autobiography. [1] Concentrating on certain period of time, event, or figure in the memory of author, memoirs are differed from typical autobiographies, which usually cover the whole lifetime. Another term "Memoir-based work" indicates a book or a movie or other similar types of work, which are originated from the memoirs of certain people. However, they are not done by the direct owners of the memoirs but by other authors or directors who refer to those memoirs. "Memoir works" is the term which includes both Memoirs and Memoir-based work.

III. Goal and Method of Study

III.1 Goal of Study
            This paper is aiming to study several cases of memoirs and memoir-based works which are on same historical topics, figuring out how they can be used as useful historical sources for their original topics.

III.2 Way of Approaching
            The main method used in this paper is the comparison/integration of various memoirs and memoir-based works on same topic. Through that way, this paper tries to cover the various viewpoints on certain topic, and make the clearer image on the description of each work.

            The examples of memoirs and memoir-based works are
                 - The portrayals of Napoleon Bonaparte in authors¡¯ private experiences
                 - The memoirs of Nazi¡¯s concentration camp survivors and one Nazi officer who worked in camp
                 - The descriptions of the Iwo Jima battle from the eyes of both U.S and Japanese armies

III.3 Content Source
            For the portrayals of Napoleon Bonaparte, 5 memoirs whose authors experienced Napoleon directly or indirectly are used. Specific information for each book is in the Bibliography section.
            For the memoirs of Nazi¡¯s concentration camp, 2 memoirs of survivors and 1 German movie about the memoirs of a Nazi camp¡¯s officer are used. Specific information for each work is in the Bibliography section.
            For the description of the battle of Iwo Jima, 2 U.S movies by one director, Clint Eastwood, are used. Specific information for each movie is in Bibliography.

IV. History of Memoirs
            Historically, one of the very first memoir writings is written by Leonor Lopez de Cordoba (1362-1420) in Spain.[2] Early memoirs usually took the explanations on certain events or the lives of authors who were socially in high positions. In most cases, the early form of memoir used very objective perspective, excluding the intervention of emotion or feeling. Over time, the types of memoirs became more and more diversified, and encouraged lots of "average" people to participate in the memoir writing.

IV.1 Before and in the 18th Century
            In the writing of Samuel Johnson, a British poet and essayist, there is a reference about the memoir which was not familiar to the public at that time. Dating back to 1759, S. Johnson mentioned in his writing that the best kind of biography is the one in which "the writer tells his own story," quite similar to the definition of autobiography. The Oxford dictionary in 1797 edition firstly mentioned about the autobiography. [3] The exact date for the birth of this genre is unknown, since the concept of autobiographic writing was not existed in the days of earliest autobiographic works.
            Memoir, one subgenre of autobiographic writing, was also unknown for the public when it began to appear in the world. Unlike the typical autobiography, the memoir concentrates not on the overall life, but on narrower and more significant parts of the author's memories. The early version of memoirs had limited spectrum of their authors. Only high political and court figures, or famed military figures were supposed to write memoirs. Historically, the early memoirs dealt mostly with public matters, the issues that the authors experienced during their terms. These works focus on describing other people or events, rather than personal information or emotion.

IV.2 19th Century and 20th Century
            In 1870s, there was a growing atmosphere which encouraged different kinds of people to write autobiography. It was an innovative change, compared to the social preconception of 1820s that only the people with the "eminent reputation" can be memoir writers, and speakers of valuable life experiences or memories. [4] From the 19thc to the 20thc, the number of memoir writing steadily grew up, showing the decrease of the historical limitation on the qualification of being an author of memoir. Additionally, the types of memoirs began to be diversified. Escaping from the early types history-textbook-like explanations, the memoirs in this period started to speak about their authors: the emotion, the feeling, and the thought.

IV.3 Since the Mid-20th Century
            As the society's division of human classes began to be destroyed, more and more people with their own peculiar background participated in memoir writing. As the result, the topics and the viewpoints became greatly diversified. The memoir which interprets the topic from the position of socially weak people also appeared. The good examples of this type are the memoirs of prisoners who were kept in concentration camp during WWII, and survived by a miracle. These memoirs contribute to make the full and clear images of multifaceted historical events, which always have the danger of biased interpretations like "the winners of the history are always right."
            Today, it's not strange at all to see the governors of states, famous actors, doctors, and even average grandfathers write the memoirs or memoir-like works. This format of writing is now much closer to people than before. Beyond the writing, some memoirs are used for making movies or documentaries of historical figures and events. In those works, the memoirs of a person can be one small piece of them, creating the bigger picture.

V. Types of Memoirs
            One of the unique features that memoirs have is the narrow and specific topic: the contents of memoirs don¡¯t need to describe the whole lifetime. They are free from the general duties of original autobiography format, and depict limited parts of the memories which the authors want to describe. There are literally numerous types of memoirs: because in every work, what the author wants to show to the readers doesn¡¯t have to be the same. Although two or more memoirs talk about same topic, each one of them exists as distinguishable work due to the different viewpoints which perceive and interpret the world in unique contexts. There is almost endless list for the types of memoir, but this paper will cover some of the popular themes for memoir writing.
            "Historical Memoir" is one form of autobiographic writing in which the importance of factual accuracy and chronology is little heavier than personal opinion. However, there is also the possibility of historical hindsight, considering the narrator actually depicts certain event after it happened. This form of memoir is largely influenced by journalism and reportage. Quotes from newspapers, letters and other verifiable, external records make this memoir authentic. The historical memoir is written not only to tell the subject's own story, but also to document the story of author's time.
            "Inspirational Memoir" is a memoir with the contents about author's struggling stories against odds, like medical or social maladies. As the title says, most works in this type were written with the purpose of inspiring readers, and encouraging them to be brave in front of harsh situations. In most cases, this type of memoir ends positively, getting rid of the hardship and winning triumph.
            "Adventure Memoir" (with thrilling memoires, war stories, or near death experience) is a memoir type in which the dramatic structure is put inside. Soldiers¡¯ memoirs depicting the battle scenes are good examples for this type. Often, the author tries to explain what he or she learned from such overwhelming experience, granting additional meaning on the events.
            "Occupational Memoir" is one of the oldest memoir types. The author narrates almost whole life career of the author in the perspective of his occupation. Memoirs in this type focus on the description of vocational events and lessons or feelings from them.
            "Portrait" form has quite different topics, focusing on conveying the private experiences of other person. While most of the memoirs make up the story with the author as protagonist, the portrait form takes other figure as the main figure in the whole story. Usually old friends, secretaries, men of famous historical figure write portrait. The portrait can give very valuable information on the figure, since the general history doesn¡¯t explain the private sectors of famous figures. [5]

VI. Difference from other Autobiographic Writings
            Since memoir is one of the subgenres under autobiographic writing, there could be a natural question about the difference between memoirs and other autobiographic genre. In fact, all kinds of autobiographic writings are based on the author's own experiences and it is the main factor which confuses the division of each subgenres. However, the biggest difference between such genres is the method of recalling personal memories. There are personal essay and diary, which is comparable to memoir.

VI.1 Personal Essay
            Personal essay, one of the most common writings in today, is similar to memoir since it also selects remarkable personal experience for the topic. However, the narrator of each genre has different level of significance in its voice. Personal essay doesn't have the duties to interpret the experience into deeper level. What it does is just mentioning one of the various happenings in the author's life, which can be either quite important or not so significant. In addition to the "event," the author might talk about the lessons or their feelings on that, but not seriously. Compared to the personal essay, memoir fundamentally has three questions in its purpose : 1. Why does this event have particular significance ? 2. What did it mean ? 3. Why is it important ? [6] With these basic questions, memoir can obtain deeper understanding on the topic. This also helps the writer of memoir has his own "perspective" on the subject, or the situation. Memoir is not a recall of diminishing memories, but an effort to make certain memories more meaningful.

VI.2 Diary
            Diary is recording, a recording only for one day. The writers of diary usually don¡¯t put too much time in writing. The basic purpose of diary is to record what happened in specific time and moment. The series of diary can be a series of fragmented records, but they cannot be a story which has a regular theme through the whole plot. Memoir, compared to the diary, has obvious plot lines consist of connected memories. In memoir, the narrator concentrates on the important meaning or effect of experience on his life. Within the plot line, the central interest of the author is to find out how such experience affected on the life, influence to the later happenings, and how the subject of memoir fit into the life of the author. Simply put, memoir includes the interpretation and emotion of writer about the past experience beyond the simple meaning of a historical record.

VII. Study of Memoirs

VII.1 General Features
            Memoir, a distinctive subgenre under autobiography, has several noticeable features. First and foremost, memoir straddles on the borderline between literature and history recording. Although the most autobiographies are treated as literature, the topic of memoirs actually existed in the past event or a figure. This makes memoir be considered as historical sources or records. While the main format of memoir is consists of narrative structure, first-person viewpoint and other literary components make readers feel it like reading a novel or a fake plot. And the fact that whole contents in memoir are what the authors directly faced in the past gives validity on the historical parts of it.
            Second feature is the range of topics that memoirs cover, comparing to those of other autobiographical works. Gore Vidal, in his own memoir Palimpsest, gave a personal definition on memoir: "A memoir is how one remembers one's own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked". [7] In other words, memoirs are about certain section of life where the author can find significant messages of meanings from, while the autobiographies can be interpreted as the result of entire life of a person. Memoirs focused on the highlights of life, thus the entire time period covered is relatively shorter than that of autobiographies.
            Third feature of memoir is the expression of thought and emotion in the context. Compared to the official historical records, the memoir shows more personal thinking and judgment on the situation and event which the author experienced. In the memoir, the main speaker tries to evaluate the event or figure with his own standard, and this feature contributes to the manifestation of unique viewpoint in the memoir. Moreover, the narrator of a memoir is more honest to reveal his feelings about the situation. Because a memoir¡¯s narrator is the one who saw and experienced every occurrence in the story, the author can freely delineate the emotions like happiness or horror he felt in such situation.
            Fourth feature of memoir is the author¡¯s interpretation and evaluation on the topic covered in his or her work. The writer is in the position where (s)he can re-consider about the past experience with enough time. This enables the author to recall the slight parts of the situation which he might had been missed at the past moments. Also, the author can think deeply about how the events or figures he experienced in the past affected him in accordance with new thoughts, perceptions, feelings, actions in the later life. Putting together, these help the author to evaluate the meaning and value of past events of figures.
            So far, this paper covers general information and features of memoir. In the rest parts, several examples will be discussed to show how those information and features are manifested from various memoirs and memoir-based works.

VII.2 Examples of Memoirs about Napoleon Bonaparte
            There are lots of memoirs on the memory of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was once the emperor of France. Some works are classified into the portraits, because the main subject of each works is largely focused on Napoleon. Some other works are more like a soldier's memoirs, but it is still possible to find out the description of Napoleon Bonaparte in those books, since the wars those men experienced were mostly caused by the same one man, Napoleon.

            1. Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis Antonine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, 1846

            This book, written by the secretary of Napoleon, Bourrienne, described Napoleon from his early age in French military school to the period when he lived as the emperor. The book draws a positive portrayal of Napoleon Bonaparte, showing the process of how one military officer became an emperor. The settings that appear most frequently in this book are battlefield and political place, and Napoleon is described as a person who has the ability to control various unpredicted situations. The author of this book tends to praise Napoleon as a general of army and an emperor throughout the whole book.

            2. Carnets de Campagne 1792-1815, General Comte Guyot, 1999

            The author of these carnets, Guyot was the Colonel of the Chasseurs a Cheval de la Garde, the principal escort commander for Napoleon from 1807. This man was one of the closest men to Napoleon, and he recorded important events occurred during the emperor's conquest across Europe. Although Guyot didn't revised what he recorded in a form of typical memoir, his descriptions on Napoleon worked well as valuable historical memoirs. In Guyot¡¯s work, Napoleon appears mostly as the general who commanded huge and glorious French army. [8]

            3. The Note-Books of Captain Coignet, Captain Jean-Roch Coignet, 1989

            As one of the members in the 1st Battalion of the 1st Grenadiers of the Old Guard, the author Captain Jean-Roch Coignet witnessed many of the important events which have huge significance during Napoleon¡¯s era. Whether it was an important and secret political events like the meeting of the two Emperors, or personal events like the wedding of Napoleon to Marie Louise in 1810, Coignet saw it all and recorded it with great detail. Like Carnets de Campagne described, Coignet delineated Napoleon as one of the central political and military figures in the era, but with more details. [9]

            4. At Wellington's Right Hand: the Letters of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon 1808-1815, Alexander Gordon, 2003

            Not only the French military figures, but also the soldiers who were once the enemies of Bonaparte wrote about Napoleon in their memoirs of Napoleonic wars. This book is consists of letters written by Alexander Gordon during his office term, fighting the Napoleonic wars. Gordon¡¯s letters show readers his descriptions on the French military officials and armies, including Napoleon. He described Bonaparte as an enemy with great wisdom and courage, with bellicose instinct. With that, Gordon wrote down his thoughts on Napoleon and French army, too. In this book, the readers can find out how the enemies of Napoleon considered him during the wars. [10]

            5. To Befriend an Emperor: Betsy Balcombe's Memoirs of Napoleon on St. Helena, Lucia Elizabeth Balcombe Abell, 2005

            This book, the memoir of one lady who spent the last days of Napoleon with him, shows very different way of approaching. Betsy Balcombe, the lady who was thirteen-year-old when Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena, is the younger daughter of William Balcombe who was at that time the Superintendent of Public Sales for the East India Company. For her, Napoleon was no more than a friendly uncle-like man who appreciated her and her family. She didn't know exactly what did Napoleon do before he came to St. Helena, including the long and brutal wars. And that is why this memoir can have very distinctive perspective on Napoleon Bonaparte, who is usually seemed today as great politician and general with ambition. For Betsy Balcombe, he was like an intimate uncle, and her memoir described him as the one who laugh much and love children. This delineation is certainly quite far from Napoleon¡¯s charismatic image on the battlefields. [11]

            These memoirs are altogether about Napoleon Bonaparte, but the viewpoints that are immersed in each work illustrated him differently. Some depicted Napoleon as great general and efficient politician, while the others described him as one of the keen enemies or a good friend. This shows that the memoirs of different people are not the same. Since the time and situational factors of each works were different, the memoirs of them about Napoleon Bonaparte are quite separated, providing different records and evaluations on him. From this example, the fact that memoirs focus on what actually appealed to the authors is proven. Additionally, we can see that each work has different topic range, in some cases Napoleon in his golden age or his last days in Balcombe's case. These memoirs also include the authors¡¯ various thoughts and evaluations on Napoleon, too.

VII.3 Examples of Holocaust Memoirs
            One of the most terrible crimes Nazi committed during WWII, Holocaust produced not only innocent victims, but also the German officers who work to get rid of those the innocents. It is easy to find memoirs from the survivors of concentration camp, but few German officers who have career as the supervisor in camp had left their memoirs. Although the survivors were in the position of sufferers and Nazi was the sole criminal, it is better to refer the memoirs of both sides if possible, because it will help to figure out the entire picture of Holocaust.

            1. Inside the Concentration Camps: Eyewitness Accounts of Life in Hitler's Death Camps, Eugene Aroneanu, 1996

            This book is a compilation of statements made by hundreds of different Holocaust survivors. The statements are pieced together in a way that makes readers feel like reading a story told by one person. In fact, this book takes various stories from survivors of all the different camps, and compiles them to depict the horror that felt by the victims. Therefore, in this memoir-based work, the author tried to integrate the whole victim into one person, and gave general explanations about the terror and panic that survivors had during the days in concentration camp. These memoirs were completely written from the perspectives of victims, and emphasized the cruelness of Nazi for the procedure of oppressing innocent people.

            2. Eyewitness: Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers, Filip Muller, 1999

            Similar to previous one, this memoir on the massacre of Holocaust provides vivid story of one survivor from the catastrophic disaster. One difference from previous source is that this book concentrates more on the memories of single survivor in Auschwitz. Naturally, this book contains more private thought and feeling about the Holocaust, and detailed descriptions on what exactly happened in the notorious concentration camp. However, the limitation of this memoir is the short spectrum of description: the book only focused on what happened to the prisoners of Auschwitz, therefore readers cannot catch the viewpoint of Nazi officers on the camp. Only the victim's testimony can readers get, with no idea of how the German officials thought and acted.

            3. Aus einem deutschen Leben, Theodor Kotulla, 1977

            The movie "Aus einem deutschen Leben" (literally "from a German life", and translated into "Death is my Trade" in the English subtitled version) is a film about Holocaust with its focus on the life of Rudolph Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Franz was an average German kid who grew up during World War I. The film follows Franz as he aged and became a hard, efficient, organized worker who eventually joined the National Socialist party in Germany. Later, when he was eventually asked by Heinrich Himmler (high Nazi official) to become commandant of the largest extermination camp that was built during the World War II, he barely considered how heavy such a burden would be.
            The film is based on the memoirs written by Rudolph Höss, the German official who worked in concentration camp and left the memoir during the last few months of his life in Polish prison before the execution in 1947. This film shows how a normal person like Rudolph Höss can be changed, committing such unreasonable crimes to the innocent people under the name of ambition. [12]

            The first and second memoirs interpret and evaluate certain historical event only with one point of view. On the other hand, the third memoir-based work uniquely depicted the same situation from the Nazi official¡¯s perspective. If we can get more explanations from various perspectives, that would be helpful to find out more detailed information, further the bigger picture of certain historical events.

VII.4 Examples of the Battle of Iwo Jima Memoirs
            In 2006, a U.S movie director Clint Eastwood conducted very interesting project. He decided to make a movie about the battle of Iwo Jima, so he began to gather up both recorded and verbal memoirs from the soldiers who fought in the island, Iwo Jima. The most important point of his project is that he recreated not only the Iwo Jima memoirs of U.S soldiers, but also those of Japanese soldiers. In the end, he released two movies in the same year, both on the absolutely same topic. These two memoir-based movies, sometimes have redundant scenes in each other, are Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006).

            1. Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood, 2006

            Being consists of framed structure, this movie shows how the U.S soldiers who had never experienced the wars before became the prisoners of heroism in Iwo Jima. Three soldiers who survived at Iwo Jima were sent back to America to advertise war debenture for U.S army. However, all of them knew that there is no winner in the war: they were tired of killing anonymous Japanese soldiers and losing precious friends in battles. Once, these three soldiers were captured in famous photograph, setting up the national flag of U.S.A on the top of Iwo Jima. This fact made them popular in America, but in reality it actually bothered them, forced to recall the terrible memories of war. In the end, the director showed the meaningless vacancy of war through the three soldiers' painful lives.

            2. Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood, 2006

            Considering it¡¯s an American director who made Flags of Our Fathers, it is hard to believe that the same person produced this movie. The whole language in the movie is Japanese, in an effort of describing more realistic situation of Japanese soldiers. In the movie, the director tried to show the fear and sad ending of Japanese soldiers and generals who had to stay in Iwo Jima, waiting for death. The film doesn't cover the U.S army that much, and perfectly focuses on the life of Japanese soldiers in Iwo Jima. The movie concentrates on every small thing which indicates soldiers' personal thought, like the letters from hometown. In the end, Japan had lost in Iwo Jima, but what Clint Eastwood emphasized more in the film is the fact that there is no winner after all, by showing the catastrophic end of soldiers.

            With these two movies, Clint Eastwood tried to convey the message of terrible, catastrophic warfare. Both U.S and Japanese sides were hurt by the battle of Iwo Jima, hating and killing each other with no specific reasons. Through this "huge picture", people can get better understanding on the battle of Iwo Jima and think about the true meaning of war.

VII.5 In What Way do Memoirs Contribute to Historical Research
            From the previous examples, it is possible to sum up major functions of memoir.

            Firstly, as it¡¯s mentioned as one of the main features of memoir, it shows how the viewpoints of different people can be noticeably differentiated from each other, although the topic is same. There were five people who wrote about Napoleon Bonaparte, but each work conveys different description about him. This is because those people's situations were not the same at the moment they met Napoleon. This made the authors to have peculiar evaluations and interpretations for Napoleon Bonaparte.

            Secondly, memoirs and memoir-based works can provide us vicarious experience of historical events and figures. In memoirs, the authors try to provide lively explanation on the subject, with the help of their direct experiences in the past. Memoirs can also carry the feelings, emotions, and personal thoughts of the authors. Thus, with detailed descriptions and vivid explanations with enough emotional expressions, memoirs are able to let people experience the history and help to make precise understanding on the subject.

            Finally, and most importantly, memoirs and memoir-based works can enlarge and connect historical records of different person, making more accurate picture for historical events and figures. There is a scene in Letters from Iwo Jima that one Japanese sergeant read a letter of one dead U.S soldier in Japanese army base. Translated into Japanese through the sergeant's voice, the dead soldier's letter contains his worry of his mother, the news of his dog, and other trivial things, which the Japanese soldiers also read in the letters from their hometown. What memoirs do is quite similar to this. Memoirs, all together with different perspectives, can back up the historical facts which we cannot know from limited view. They help us to get historical experiences from various participants of certain events, and let us integrate those separate records with wider and deeper knowledge, which eventually helps to grab the thorough understanding of the topic.
VIII. Source Criticism on Memoirs
            Although it is proven that memoir works can give us many useful facts on their subjects, still there are weak points of them. If memoirs and memoir-based works could overcome these weaknesses, they would become better historical sources.

VIII.1 Validity of Memoirs
            To start with, we cannot completely believe whether the whole contents of memoirs are true. How the authors of memoirs can recall every slight happening which was occurred in 10 or more years ago? In some parts, they can even create new stories which fit well into the original context. Moreover, it's impossible to completely ignore the possibility of intentional distortion in memoir works to make them more attractive for possible buyers. There is a genre in literature called ¡°Fake Memoir¡±, which the author creates the whole plots of story in memoir format. If the memoir cannot assure its own validity, what is difference of the memoir and fake memoir work ?

VIII.2 Bias in Memoirs
            In the case of the examples in Chapter VI, we could get better understanding on the subjects because there are various memoir works that have unique perspectives. However, how can we get the history with diverse point of views, if only limited numbers of memoirs are available ? It is like reading the memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte covering his early and golden ages, and ignoring the memoirs which deal with the later years. If we couldn't get the memoir of Betsy Balcombe, could we catch the human and uncle-like aspects of Napoleon? Because of this, it¡¯s inevitable to research the memoirs of every possible participant in the subjects when we want to use those memoirs as historical sources. If not altogether, partial memoirs can give us biased facts. IX. Conclusion
            So far, this paper covers the function of memoir as one type of historical source. History is not the record of one person, but the multifaceted result of the entire human being's activities. In this point of view, we need every participant's memory and evaluation to accurately define the meaning of history, but it's barely possible. In this situation, memoir can be an effective alternative for this problem. Containing its author's memory, evaluation, even emotion and feeling on certain subject, memoir can give us a "puzzle piece" for certain historical events and figures.
            In memoir, the author makes a deep consideration on the meaning of past experiences that affected themselves with a variety of ways. Through this process, the memoir has distinctive effects compared to other autobiographical writings. It shows more peculiar and particular viewpoints on the topic, while personal essay and diary usually do not have such detailed perspectives and thoughts. This makes memoirs as the useful historical source. Each one of the memoirs is like a historical record by different historian. When those memoirs are integrated, we can get more objective views on the subjects and obtain deeper understanding on the historical events.
            However, there would be some possible dilemmas if we use the memoirs as basic historical source. First of all, it is dangerous to thoroughly believe the memorial ability of authors. No one can sure about the validity of a memoir¡¯s description about an event that happened long time ago. If not valid, memoir is no more than a literature. Furthermore, if we are able to access the memoirs only by limited portion of people concerned to certain historical event, there is a possibility of biased information. In other words, a memoir can rather be a poison for historians if it is not balanced well.
            Memoir is a very special genre, which focuses on the highlights of author¡¯s life. It can provide peculiar explanation and interpretation on history. In this point of view, memoirs are proper to be used as historical source. However, historians need to be careful about the objectivity of memoirs. Sometimes the bias in memoirs can mislead the readers into wrong direction. To use a memoir as credible historical source, we need to back up the accuracy and secure the fair perspective. It is possible only by checking as many memoirs as possible. If we use appropriately, a memoir can be fine historical source.

Notes
           
(1)      "Memoir"
(2)      Wikipedia Article: "Memoir"
(3)      "A brief history of Memoir-bashing"
(4)      ibid.
(5)      "Types of Autobiographic writing"
(6)      "The Personal Memoir"
(7)      Same as 2
(8)      Review by the website "Napoleon Series" on Carnets de Campagne
(9)      Review by the website "Napoleon Series" on The Note-Books of Captain Coignet
(10)      Review by the website "Napoleon Series" on At Wellington¡¯s Right Hand : the Letters of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon 1808-1815
(11)      Review by the website "Napoleon Series" on To Befriend an Emperor : Betsy Balcombe's Memoirs of Napoleon on St. Helena
(12)      Review by the website "IMDB" on the movie Aus Einem Deutschen Leben


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8.      "The Personal Memoir" URL http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/753/02/
9.      Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis Antonine Fauvelet De Bourrienne, 1846, Publisher H. G. Bohn / GB URL http://books.google.co.kr/books?id=VGM2AAAAMAAJ
10.      Review by the website "Napoleon Series" (http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/c_memoirs.html) on Carnets de Campagne 1792-1815, General Comte Guyot, 1999, Librairie Historique Fabrice Teissedre, IBSN# 2912259177 URL http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/memoirs/c_guyot.html
11.      Review by the website "Napoleon Series" on The Note-Books of Captain Coignet, Captain Jean-Roch Coignet, 1989, Greenhill Books URL http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/memoirs/c_coignet.html
12.      Review by the website "Napoleon Series" on To Befriend an Emperor: Betsy Balcombe¡¯s Memoirs of Napoleon on St. Helena, Lucia Elizabeth Balcombe Abell, 2005, Ravenhall, IBSN# 1905043031 URL http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/memoirs/c_balcombe.html
13.      Review by the website "Napoleon Series" on At Wellington¡¯s Right Hand: the Letters of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon 1808-1815, Alexander Gordon, 2003, Phoenix Mill, IBSN# 0750933801 URL http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/memoirs/c_gordon.html
14.      Inside the Concentration Camps: Eyewitness Accounts of Life in Hitler's Death Camps, Eugene Aroneanu, 1996, Praeger/ GB URL http://books.google.co.kr/books?id=hNrqjiyIOhYC
15.      Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers, Filip Muller, 1999, Ivan R. Dee/ GB URL http://books.google.co.kr/books?id=VAVnAAAAMAAJ
16.      Review by the website "IMDB" on the movie Aus Einem Deutschen Leben, Theodor Kotulla, 1977 URL http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075708/
17.      Movie: Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood, 2006
18.      Movie: Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood, 2006



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