Recommended texts on oral history
Early influential works
Ask the Fellows who cut the hay- by
George Ewart Evans,
Fenwomen : a portrait of women in an English village / Mary Chamberlain ; photographs by Justin Partyka.
Mary Chamberlain, 1947-
Woodbridge : Full Circle, c2011.
oral history available via the catalogue
Voice of the past : oral history.
Oxford : Oxford, 2000.
is a good text on methodology and has been printed in a number of editions
Key BL collections
Research is an ongoing project initiated in 1997 to record life story interviews that document qualitative research techniques and practice in the 20th century. Interviewees include social anthropologists Sir Jack Goody and Peter Loizos, and sociologists Ann Oakley and Lord Michael Young.
Major national oral history projects and surveys
large collections of oral history recordings that offer details about British life, work and families in the 20th century. ..
The George Ewart Evans Collection
comprises around 250 recordings of interviews and songs made by writer, folklorist and oral history pioneer George Ewart Evans between 1956 and 1977. The principal subjects are rural life and agricultural work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, folk beliefs about animals, medicine and witchcraft, folk and popular songs, entertainment and education in rural communities (with some material on domestic service, transport and mining). Most of the recordings were made in Suffolk, with a smaller number in the Midlands, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
People are invited to share an intimate conversation with a close friend or relative, to be recorded and broadcast (in edited form) by the BBC and curated and archived in full by the British Library. These one-to-one conversations, lasting up to an hour and taking a topic of the speakers’ choice, collectively form a picture of our lives and relationships today. Topics include health, sexuality, ethnicity, religion and belief. Edited excerpts from the collection are broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 4 and on local radio stations across the UK and Northern Ireland.
Millennium Memory Bank
The Millennium Memory Bank was created in 1998-99 by all BBC local radio stations across England, together with Radio Scotland, Radio Ulster, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, joining forces with the British Library Sound Archive to create the Millennium Memory Bank – a powerful record of the century just ending through the voices of thousands of people from all walks of life. This joint BBC and British Library project, entitled ‘The Century Speaks: Millennium Oral History Project’ collected over 6000 interviews.
This was the largest project in the history of British radio. Between September and December 1999 each of the BBC’s forty stations then used the recordings as the basis for its own series of sixteen programmes called The Century Speaks in which local people reflected back across the 20th century. Each series showed how – in that part of the UK – different aspects of life have changed. Each radio station followed the same 16 themes: Where we Live and House and Home; Living Together; Who We Are and Belonging; Crime and the Law; Growing up and Getting Older; Technology; Eating and Drinking; Money; Playtime; Going Places; Life and Death; Beliefs and Fears; and What’s Next.
Selected recordings from the Millennium Memory Bank are available online for the study of accents and dialects.
Family Life and Work Experience before 1918 is a pioneering collection of oral history interviews, also known as ‘The Edwardians,’ devised and recorded by Paul and Thea Thompson at Essex University between 1970 and 1973. It comprises structured interviews with a national sample of people born before 1918 in the UK.
The interviews were conducted thematically, and included Meals, Domestic Routine, School, Weekend Activities and Religion. A quota sample of an initial 444 individuals was selected to be geographically representative of Britain, broken down by urban and rural district according to where the informants resided in 1911 (census data), and by occupation at time of interview. A further 65 interviews with middle and upper-class families were conducted later, also 7 interviews with black migrants, 3 with Irish men and women, and 6 with American men and women. From C 707/455 to C 707/518 the tapes have been given the collection title ‘Middle and Upper Class Families’.
include before stone wall LGBT
The Hall-Carpenter Oral History archive is a major collection of interviews relating to gay and lesbian experience in Britain. The original oral history project was established in 1985 as part of the Hall Carpenter Archives, which had been set up in 1982. After the closure of the Hall Carpenter Archive the written papers were given to the London School of Economics and the oral history collection, including correspondence and some transcripts, was donated to the National Sound Archive in 1989.
Before Stonewall: a lesbian, gay and transgender oral history is a collection of VHS copies of interviews with members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered communities recalling their experiences from the years before 1969 and the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement. The Rainbow Television