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What Is a Journal and the History of Journaling – VISIYA

Updated: May 5, 2023

A journal is a set of fragmentary entries made for oneself, kept regularly, and most commonly followed by a date. Such writings frame individual experience and, as a written genre, accompany the formation of individuality in culture.


Some people find a diary to be an understanding and trusting interlocutor, or a memorable notebook about a period in life, while others consider it to be a way to reflect on their lives, to look at their mistakes, and to change for the better. But you may have another goal in mind, because you can write down anything you want in your journal.


The first journals known to science appeared in Japan in the 10th century. In China, journals have been known since the 12th century, and in Europe since the 15th century. However, the surviving European journals of the 15th -16th centuries cannot be called journals in the modern sense, as they were based either on court records reproducing the events of various diplomatic missions, or travel notes from journeys.


It was not until the 17th century that journals became more personal. The increase in the level of literacy in Europe and the cheapness of paper resulted in journals being kept not only by people from higher social circles. At the end of the 17th – beginning of the 18th century, journal entries were already so popular that they became an object for imitation of writers, and the first journals of fiction appeared.


There are business and personal journals (diaries), travel journals, family journals and writer’s journals (notebooks). The diaries of prominent people or people close to them, documents of crucial periods of history have a special value, although everyday details of an ordinary person’s life can be equally important, informative and interesting, as the main burden of the mentioned crucial periods has to be borne by him/her.


Throughout history, world leaders and politicians have kept journals of some kind, including George Washington, American statesman and politician, the first popularly elected president of the United States, one of the America’s Founding Fathers; Winston Churchill, British statesman and politician, British prime minister, Nobel laureate in literature, and many others.


Journals are also very popular nowadays and have a wide variety of purposes and contents. The Internet opens up new perspectives in journaling. Some people document their lives through social networks or blogs, while others use special apps instead.


Woman's hands on a personal journal
Example of a journal

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