Digitised diaries and class bias

Increasingly, when researching the past, we make use of digitised records, and increasingly, for the nineteenth century at least, there are a slew of  newly digitised diaries and journals.

But there’s a problem:

Most of the people who wrote and kept journals and diaries were middle class, and what they recorded and commented about were things of interest to the middle class.

This means that what we see of life we see through the lens of the middle classes.

Studies based on digitised newspaper articles have their own problems – the articles and reports tend to reflect the biases of the readers of the newspapers, with stories of drunken servants and rural misdoings always a good standby.

Yet we know there were skilled tradesmen, gardeners and the rest who kept workbooks and journals, yet, these have either not been digitised or have not survived,

There are exceptions of course. J has the workbook of Robert Warwick, who was her great ↑n grandfather, a market gardener and seedsman in Barnard Castle in 1820 or thereabouts, and while much of it is quite mundane we have records of the gentry who did not pay there bills (Christmas Bills indeed!), and other items that tell you about the nature of society at the time.

(We have arranged, when we can travel again, to donate it to the Royal Horticultural Society in England for digitisation.)

Now there must be others, but they seem to be rare.

And personally I think that’s a problem. When I look at my own family history, I can see that those who had farms and businesses would have records that would have told us much about life in rural Scotland over the nineteenth century, but the records have all gone, as has any chance of recording the oral history of the area …


About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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