The Poisoned Madeleine: The Autobiographical Turn in Historical Writing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the recent fashion for autobiographical writing among historians. It argues that this fashion goes with a rehabilitation of contemporary history, which was sometimes regarded with disdain during the time in the mid-1960s when approaches associated with the Annales school seemed most influential. Autobiographies by historians have attracted particular attention in France and all such works are sometimes labelled with the term first coined by Pierre Nora: ego-histoire. However, this article argues that the historians brought together by Nora (all French, mostly born between 1917 and 1930 and heavily influenced by the political upheavals of the period 1940 to 1962) were rather different from those historians (mostly from a younger generation) who have been drawn to autobiographical writing in the Anglo-American world. It is finally suggested that there is now something of a reaction against autobiographical writing by a younger generation of historians who argue that, even when writing about the very recent past, absence of direct personal experience can be an advantage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531 - 554
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Contemporary History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'The Poisoned Madeleine: The Autobiographical Turn in Historical Writing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this