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Forty Years 1969-2009
Volume: 37, Issue: 1 (2009)
Articles
Revisiting Akenfield: Forty Years Of An Iconic Text
Ronald Blythe’s Akenfield is widely cited as one of the most influential books in the field of oral history in Britain. First published in 1969, Akenfield is an evocative portrait of life in an East Anglian village which illustrated the potential for a new kind of history, telling the stories of ordinary folk in their own words. In this article I revisit Akenfield to examine how its reception and use has mirrored trends in oral history practice in the UK, and to reposition it as a text which can have a lot to say to oral historians today. For forty years Akenfield has acted as a lightning rod, attracting criticism and praise in equal measure but always reflecting the obsessions of the oral history community. Forty years on, Blythe’s attempt to capture the spirit of a community through the stories it tells about itself sits comfortably within the new oral history practice with its focus on narrative and subjectivity.
Author(s): Lynn Abrams
Keywords: Akenfield, Ronald Blythe, rural life, narrative, methodology

The Growth Of The Oral History Movement In Scotland: The Life And Legacy Of Eric Cregeen
Eric Cregeen was a founding member of the Oral History Society in 1973 and the first Chairman of the Scottish Oral History Group, founded in 1978. This paper surveys and summarises the major contribution that Cregeen made to the interdisciplinary subjects surrounding oral history, folklore, education, language and anthropology. It also highlights Cregeen’s important contributions to several archive collections in the Isle of Man and in Scotland.
Author(s): Margaret Bennett
Keywords: archives; folklore; education; Gaelic language; Isle of Man; Scotland

‘Desperate Housewives’ and The Domestic Environment In Post-War Britain: Individual Perspectives
This article examines the recollections of middle-class British housewives who experienced symptoms of neurosis, anxiety or depression during the post Second World War period. It specifically addresses the claim made by feminist commentators, that the banality and stultification of the domestic role caused mental illness in women. The oral testimonies suggest that, in many cases, housewives of the 1950s and 1960s found contentment in their role, identifying instead problematic interpersonal relationships or trauma during childhood as the cause of their symptoms. The article argues that the causes of anxiety and depression were more complex than has previously been suggested and seeks to provide a more sophisticated analysis of women’s experience.
Author(s): Ali Haggett
Keywords: housewife; mental illness; domesticity; depression

Investigating Shopper Narratives of the Supermarket in Early Post-War England, 1945-75
The advent of self-service and supermarket retailing marked a significant departure from the counter-service format that had dominated food shopping in Britain until the 1950s. But reactions of shoppers to this new mode of shopping are poorly understood. The Reconstructing Consumer Landscapes Project was designed to cast light on the complexities of consumer reaction to changes in food shopping between 1945 and 1975 through a large-scale survey combined with one hundred and twenty-two semi-structured oral history interviews. This article introduces approaches to understanding consumers, and looks, in particular, at the ways in which academic scholars have characterised the reactions of consumers to the rise of self-service and supermarket shopping. The article then highlights some of the strengths we observed in our use of oral history interviewing in reconstructing the experiences of shoppers in early supermarkets. We also discuss our use of a content analysis approach to analyse material from the interviews and what this has revealed about consumer reactions as seen in interviewees’ accounts of their first experiences of supermarket shopping.
Author(s): Dawn Nell, Andrew Alexander, Gareth Shaw and Adrian R Bailey
Keywords: supermarkets; content analysis; consumers; semi-structured interviews

‘Don’t mix race with the specialty’: interviewing South Asian overseas-trained geriatricians
The words quoted in the title, ‘Don’t mix with race with the specialty’ were used by a senior South Asian geriatrician, one of over thirty South Asian overseas doctors interviewed during a research project on the experiences of South Asian geriatricians in the UK. These words present us with a quandary: how to understand accounts of career progression that ascribe the limitations to their status as elite migrants to the discipline in which they specialised rather than the much vaunted issue of racism within the NHS. This variation from what we expected to hear poses a challenge to analysis of oral history data. The article deals with the quandary in three ways. First it looks at the experience of the multiplicity of differences which this group of migrant doctors recounts. It then shifts to focus on how, within their interviews the experience of racism, is recounted and to what extent it is identified, silenced or subsumed. Finally, the article offers a three-layered analysis of the ways in which these interviews provide insights into how the dilemma presented by a sensitive topic such as race is managed and indeed created in the interview dialogue by migrants occupying an elite status.
Author(s): Joanna Bornat, Leroi Henry and Parvati Raghuram
Keywords: geriatricans; elites; race; South Asian doctors

Oral History, ‘Learning Disability’ and Pedagogies of Self
Oral history interviews are one form in a wider and changing formation of individualisation, personalisation and self-representation – a formation which is politically volatile. This article explores this volatility through one interview conducted as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘History of Day Centres for People with Learning Disabilities’ project. In his interview Tom Brown mobilises the idea of ‘free will’ to account for changes in his life – an account which both contradicts and challenges the professional assessment procedures and eligibility criteria which are likely to have determined his life course. To help explore the complexities of his account, the article traces the multiple histories of the interview showing the specific meanings of Tom’s claim to ‘free will’. The article concludes by arguing that the oral history interview needs to avoid simply becoming a ‘pedagogy of self’ used to support the production of a model of personhood defined by ‘independence’ and ‘choice’.1 Instead oral history practice needs to retain its critical edge by specifically understanding the self being articulated through oral histories as not simply reflecting the past and present but creating the future.
Author(s): Helen Graham
Keywords: learning disability; interview; New Labour; pedagogies of self

Public History
‘They Listened To My Voice’: The Refugee Communities History Project And Belonging: Voices Of London’s Refugees
The Refugee Communities History Project was a partnership project involving a number of refugee organisations, a museum and a university, which collected 160 oral history interviews and created an exhibition, Belonging: voices of London’s refugees. This article looks at how oral history was positioned centre-stage, physically and conceptually, with analysis of the interviews shaping the exhibition. It describes the collaborative processes which created the exhibition, with regular strands of discussion and negotiation over more than two years. And it reflects on the impact of the exhibition on visitors, how visitors’ own experiences and perspectives influenced their responses, whether it promoted a sense of inclusion for refugee visitors, and how it encouraged greater understanding and mobilisation to action.
Author(s): Annette Day
Keywords: museums; community; partnership; refugees

Reviews
Set Into Song: Ewan Maccoll, Charles Parker, Peggy Seeger And The Radio Ballads
Author(s): Peter Cox

Making Peace With The Past? Memory, Trauma And The Irish Troubles
Author(s): Graham Dawson

Shaping History: Narratives Of Political Change
Author(s): Molly Andrews

Negotiating Boundaries In The City: Migration, Ethnicity, And Gender In Britain
Author(s): Joanna Herbert

Birth Control, Sex, And Marriage In Britain 1918-1960
Author(s): Kate Fisher

The Women's Land Army: A Portrait By Gill Clarke; Land Girls & Their Impact
Author(s): Ann Kramer

Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today: Reminiscence In Dementia Care
Author(s): Pam Schweitzer, Errollyn Bruce

Oral History In A Wounded Country: Interactive Interviewing In South Africa
Author(s): Philippe Denis, Radikobo Ntsimane

Margaret Mellis: A Life In Colour
Author(s): Sue Giovanni, Jules Hussey