Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
`Diary Wars?' Political Diaries and Memoirs as Historical Sources
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Mutually Exclusive
HY32520, HY32720, HY32820, HY32920, HY33020, HY32320, HY34520, HA33320

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hour seminars Individual tutorials for presentations, essay and project planning


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 X 1500 WORD ESSAY  20%
Semester Assessment 1 X SEMINAR PRESENTATION  20%
Semester Assessment 1 x 5,00 word project  60%
Semester Assessment 1 x 1500 word essay  20%
Semester Assessment Seminar presentation  20%
Semester Assessment 1 X 5000 WORD PROJECT  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

demonstrate familiarity with the ways in which political diaries and memoirs have been used by historians

demonstrate an awareness of the challenges of working with diaries and memoirs, including the risk of according them too much significance

analyze and reflect critically on the concept of the `diary wars'

construct and sustain historical arguments orally and in writing

work both independently and collaboratively and to participate in group discussions

Brief description

This module will introduce students to the ways historians have used political diaries and memoirs to support their interpretation of historical events since 1945. Focusing on Anglo-American examples, students will examine the `diary wars' of accounts and narratives which can be viewed as a competition for the historical record and an attempt to settle old scores. Seminars will explore questions relating to the `political' nature of diaries and memoirs: whether they were intended as a public account, judged to be un/reliable witnesses, are accurate contributions to the public record of events etc. Assignments will require students to identify and work with diaries and memoirs, exploring their account of events using the current historiography and other primary sources (notably the press) and, of course, comparing and contrasting `rival' accounts in other diaries and memoirs.


Given the lack of publicly available documentary sources, historians of contemporary politics view political diaries and memoirs, alongside other sources such as the press and oral history, as an invaluable source for research. Diaries and memoirs can contribute to research by establishing the detail of significant historical events. They have also been employed by historians to examine the political decision making process and the complex nature of political change. Although the use of diaries and memoirs is almost commonplace in historical research it is not without its pitfalls. Difficulties include the interpretation of personal diaries and those intended for publication, dealing with deliberately one-sided memoirs and the advantage of hindsight, and the challenge of integrating evidence from diaries and memoirs with wider historical contexts. In short, historians should be aware of the `diary wars': politicians are aware of their role in history and want to influence the writing of it accordingly. This module will examine how historians can make use of published political diaries and memoirs, taking into account the inevitable problems and challenges which they pose as sources.


1. Introduction
2. Writing yourself into history: Winston Churchill
3. Henry Kissinger
4. Tony Benn
5. Jimmy Carter
6. Margaret Thatcher
7. Ronald Reagan
8. John Major
9. Alastair Campbell
10. `Diary Wars?? Political diaries and memoirs as historical sources.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number
Communication Oral and written communication skills will be developed through seminars and feedback on written work. Seminar presentations will be assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Written work will be returned in tutorials where advice will be given on improving students¿ research techniques and essay writing skills. Students will receive instant feedback from their peers on their presentations (including the handouts, reading lists and extract activities which they designed)
Information Technology Students will be required to locate primary and secondary source materials through library and on-line sources. Students will be encouraged to word-process their assessed work and handouts for presentations. Likewise, students will be expected to use IT in their presentations.
Personal Development and Career planning This module will help develop oral and written skills. Other activities, including research, assessment of information and writing in a clear manner, will further develop useful skills of analysis and presentation.
Problem solving Students will be required to locate and assess primary source materials. Assessed through written assignments and presentations.
Research skills Students will be required to carry out research for seminars and written work. The latter will be assessed though written assignments and presentations.
Subject Specific Skills
Team work Students will collaborate during seminar activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 6