"I imagine sitting beside someone with personal experience of a time you find fascinating, listening as they recount their memories. Not in hast, not guided or constrained by an interviewer's questions, but fully and at leisure, calling back the people and things that affected them most at the time, and so have stayed in the mind when other details are lost.
Memory and history are not the same. We recall tastes, scents, sights and feelings, the things that delighted us or scared us, but are all too liable to forget the date of an election or the meeting with an 'important' person who seemed dull to us at the tome. Memories may not always contribute much to the development of an historical argument but they have so much to say about how it felt to be alive at that time - how it felt to be someone else.
Read 25 Chapters of My Life and you come as close as any of us will ever come now to meeting someone born into the imperial Russian Court in its years of power, someone who knew that Court simply as home, and lived through its final years in hope and apprehension, without having an historical context into which to set their experience..."
Extract from book review by Charlotte Zeepvat
Author(s): Paul Kulikovsky, Karen Roth-Nicholls, Sue Woolmans