Personal accounts, including memoirs, journals, diaries, autobiographies, and life histories, are important historical sources that help us understand the human condition. Everybody has a personal history; every life has its share of joy and sorrow, victory and tragedy. These are the stories we tell about our lives that usually portray a larger picture of a life in historical context. In reading a personal account of someone far removed from your own culture and historical period, it is possible to learn about the foreign within the familiar framework of an unfolding life. The comparisons and contrasts between the lives of the reader and the subject inevitably spring to mind.
All personal accounts imply motivation on the part of the subject. A written document implies a certain level of literacy and an attitude of self-reflection. Orally recorded accounts require a vehicle of transmission, perhaps a scholar who records interviews with an individual.