Contemporary Political History in a Digital Age

Following the very successful ‘Oral History and the Study of Contemporary Politics’ event at the British Library in November 2015, the third event in the ‘Rethinking Contemporary British History’ series is taking place on Thursday, February 11, 2016 – 1:30pm at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The event, hosted in partnership between the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historians, forms part of a wider programme of activity focused on early-career scholars on the theme of Rethinking Contemporary British Political History, which is funded by a British Academy’s Rising Star Engagement Award held by Dr Helen McCarthy at Queen Mary University of London.

The transformation of politics in the era of the internet is a subject of endless debate and discussion, but what are its implications for political history and historians? How does the current ‘digital revolution’ compare to technological change in earlier periods, from the birth of radio and television to the arrival of the fax machine and photocopier? How are digital technologies changing the methodological and conceptual terrain of political history? And how should we preserve and analyse ‘born-digital’ sources, from central government emails to activist tweets? In short, if digital technologies have changed politics in our time, how are they changing political history?

This event will bring early-career and more established historians together with archivists, policymakers and digital specialists to consider these and other questions about the relationship between politics, digital technologies and the writing of history.

Further details can be found at the following link: http://www.history.qmul.ac.uk/news-and-events/event/contemporary-political-history-digital-age

This guide is for people who record oral history interviews, and organisations and individuals who keep collections of oral history recordings in the four nations of the United Kingdom. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland comprise the UK and amongst them have three legal systems. However so far as the law is referred to in this document it is safe to assume that all come within the wider context of UK and European law. The Oral History Society promotes the use of oral history techniques to record the memories of those whose life stories would otherwise be lost to future generations, and encourages researchers and teachers to make use of oral history in their work.

It is essential that interviewees should have confidence and trust in interviewers, and that recordings should be available for research and other use within a legal and ethical framework which protects the interests of interviewees. The following information and guidelines are aimed at ensuring that these objectives are achieved.

Anyone involved with the creation and preservation of oral history interviews should take steps to safeguard their reputation for trustworthiness. This means ensuring that what they do is within the various UK and European laws that apply to oral history and that they have not been acting illegally. Oral historians generally speaking have a good reputation in this respect. This guidance is therefore offered as reassurance and advice to both interviewers and interviewees.

The Oral History Society believes that, while oral history work must comply with the law, legal requirements alone do not provide an adequate framework for good practice. No UK law was designed specifically to regulate oral history work; in fact no law even mentions it. Beyond legal considerations we have long held the view that oral historians should abide by a voluntary set of ethical guidelines.

For these reasons this guide covers responsibilities and obligations beyond legal requirements. Members of the Oral History Society, including those who are custodians, archivists and librarians, have agreed to abide by these guidelines.

The guidance reflects the workflow of a typical oral history interview. Much of the legal and technical detail is available not within the main guidance text but via hypertext links so that the key steps and terms can be understood and followed. There are also links to sample documents and resources.