When one is given an overview of historical events, such as in classroom setting, one can feel a certain amount of distance from the past. The telling of the personal stories of those who have experienced historical periods, or events, can allow those who have not to experience them through the memories of those that have. In this way, history can be humanized for the listener. They can develop a greater sense of personal connection to it, and a greater sense of its value.
I have chosen to post a story from The Moth which is itself a good example of how a broader historical context can be filled in, and explored, by the telling of a personal narrative. With this story, the context is Western Europe during, and after, the Second World War. The teller of this story is a woman who was a young girl at the time. Her tale deals with her separation from her mother which was brought about by German occupation and the Nazi Party’s treatment of Jewish people. Through this story, and others like it, listeners are able to better understand the human part played in broad historical contexts, that can otherwise become abstract.
For a further resource, below is a link to the introduction of an article the deals with personal narratives from a historian’s point of view.
– Ian L-S