Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive
Mutually Exclusive

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hour seminars 2 x 15 minute tutorials for feedback on written work 1 x 30 minute tutorial for project planning


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 X PROJECT (5000 WORDS)  60%
Semester Assessment 2 X ESSAYS @ 1,500 WORDS  40%

Learning Outcomes

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

demonstrate familiarity with the ways in which personal letters and diaries have been used by historians

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

analyze and reflect critically on the concept of 'truthfulness' in private communication

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 personal letters and diaries to support their interpretation of historical events and social change. Students will examine the tradition of letter writing and diary keeping in Britain and, to a lesser extent, in Europe, from the 17th century onward. Seminars will explore questions related to the 'truthfulness' of seemingly private documents, the 'public' nature of some private diaries, and the way in which even candid communications have at times left important things unsaid. Instances of letters and diaries having been used by historians to 'prove' contentious arguments in the arenas of social and political history will be explored, as will concerns about whether private communication in the post-paper age will continue to be as rich a source for historical researchers. Will emails and blogs successfully replace letters and diaries, or is the golden age of private communication over? Assignments will require students to identify and work with archival collections, including those held by the National Library of Wales.


Historians have long found personal letters and diaries an invaluable source for research. Letters and diaries have often played a central role in establishing the timing and/or detail of significant historical events. Letters and diaries have also frequently been employed by historians to examine the complexity and/or contradictory nature of social or political change. Although the use of letters and diaries can be argued to be almost commonplace in historical research it is not without its pitfalls. Difficulties include the interpretation of private communications, dealing with physical and/or linguistic irregularities, and the challenge of integrating evidence from letters and diaries with wider historical contexts. A key feature of this module will be to explore how historians have successfully made use of letters and diaries, and to address the subtleties inherent in such use.


10 x 2 hour seminars
1. Introduction: Personal letters and diaries as historical evidence
2. The tradition of letter writing: Britain and Europe
3. Diaries: for private or public consumption?
4. Accessing archival collections
5. Social history: using letters to prove an argument
6. Political history: reappraising events with the help of letters and diaries
7. Always truthful? Interpreting 'honesty' in letters and diaries
8. Reading between the lines: what's left unsaid in private communication
9. Death of the letter: a vanishing source for historical research
10. The blog: useful or useless for historical research?

Two tutorials of 15 minutes, primarily for giving feedback on written work, and one project planning tutorial of 30 minutes.

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. Literary skills will be assessed through written assignments.
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.
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.
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.
Research skills Students will be required to carry out research for seminars and written work. The latter will be assessed though written assignments.
Subject Specific Skills
Team work Students will work together in seminar preparation and discussion.


This module is at CQFW Level 6