Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Blogging Pepys and Other Historical Sources

OhmyNews International has an article on blogging historical sources. What originally caught my eye, and hence the title of my post, is Phil Gyford's Pepys' Diary, in which Gyford is blogging Samuel Pepys' Diary. (Samuel Pepys, in case someone doesn't know, was a Seventeenth-century British government official whose diary, kept from 1660-1669, is considered one of the greatest and most popular works of Seventeenth-century British literature. Important events covered in Pepys' diary include the London Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666. Gyford began on January 1, 2003 and will finish in 2012.)

While the article begins with a discussion of Gyford's blogging of Pepys, it also discusses a number of historical blogs, and links to the History News Network's Cliopatria, the HNN's blog that also sponsors annual history blog awards. Cliopatria's list of history blogs includes other primary source blogs like Pepys' Diary.

The whole idea of blogging historical sources is interesting on a number of levels. First, obviously, it helps get primary sources out on the Web, many of which readily fit the blog format such as diaries, journals, chronicles, letters, and commonplace books. It also brings to the fore the whole issue of documenting the personal. While many would argue that there is no inherent value in the daily recording of mundane in one's life, documents like Pepys' diary serve as an interesting counterpoint to these arguments. Yes, Pepys' diary is of interest to us because it is historical, because it's a glimpse into London some 400 years ago. And yes, Pepys himself was a good writer. And yes, as a governemnt official, Pepys had access to and writes about secrets of the powerful. Despite all that, what makes Pepys' diary so interesting is the glimpses of a past world it gives us. The desire to record the mundane events of one's day is an old one. Blogs, of course, bring the personal into the public realm, but for better or worse, that is becoming a defining characteristic of digital culture. It seems odd to us know because we stand with one foot in print culture and one foot in digital culture. While the old rules and practices no longer define our daily lives, the new rules and practices are not yet codified and interiorized. (This is not to say that the traditions and logics of print culture are being brushed aside, just that they are no longer the defining paradigm.

via Archivalia .

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