Life Writing "from Below" in Europe: Introduction

T. G. Ashplant


The term life writing “from below” is intended to be broad (accommodating) in a double sense: as regards the social status of authors, but also the genre of writing. The phrase “from below” draws on an analogy with the now well-established formulation “history from below” (Sharpe; Hitchcock). In the first instance it refers to authors from low down in a class or status hierarchy. Depending on the society and period in focus, such authors may be slaves, serfs, peasants, crofters, landless labourers, artisans, industrial workers … and may be referred to as—or may designate themselves—plebeians, the labouring poor, the common people, the popular classes, artisans, proletarians, the working class. For the early modern period, James Amelang explains his choice of the term “popular autobiography”:

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European Journal of Life Writing - ISSN 1876-8156 - is an open access initiative supported by the VU University Library.