Oral history seminars kick off on October 12


We’re delighted to unveil our programme of seminars at the Institute of Historical Research for the next academic year.

The programmes start with a seminar by Rebecca Pearce from Exeter University who will be talking about her research of the historic drought oral history collection. Traditionally, scientists and historians have not collaborated to study the impact of extreme weather events on individuals, however this oral history collection provides an opportunity to look at how individuals interpret historic events and how this affects their views on future risk.

Rebecca’s talk is entitled Building resilience through shuttlework: the positive contribution oral testimony can make to climate risk assessments. It takes place at 6pm on October 12 in the John S Cohen room (203), Senate House (north block), Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.

The seminar is free, open to all and there is no need to book.

The programme for the coming year is as follows (all seminars take place in the same room and same time as above unless otherwise stated):

  • Revising The Voice of the Past: oral history’s role in a changing world
    Joanna Bornat, Open University, and Paul Thompson, Essex University
    November 9 in Senate House south block, room SH246
    Since Paul Thompson’s first edition in 1978, The Voice of the Past has been a classic in making the case for oral history. Nearly 40 years later, the fourth edition, expanded and revised jointly with Joanna Bornat, explores oral history’s worldwide development and activity, continues to argue and explain key principles, proposes reliable approaches and sets out ethical guidance for both new and experienced oral historians. This seminar will be chaired by Graham Smith, professor of oral history at Newcastle University.

    A discount offer for copies is available. We welcome you to this discussion and celebration.

  • The troubles with a lower case ‘t’: memory, deindustrialisation and urban redevelopment in Belfast
    Sean O’Connell, Queen’s University, Belfast,
    February 15
  • With care in the community everything goes: oral histories of people giving and receiving care in Nottingham mental hospitals
    Verusca Calabria, Nottingham University
    March 15

  • Social history without people: capturing the voices of Welsh Jewry
    Cai Parry-Jones, Royal Horticultural Society
    April 19

  • Carry on sergeant: exploring National Service in personal and popular memory
    Joel Morley, University of Essex
    June 14

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.