Oralhistory is often referred to as a methodology, not a theory. But since the 1980s oral historians have developed a number of interpretive approaches, drawing upon contemporary theories and concepts from a broad range of cognate subjects. These theories and concepts have coalesced into a widely shared understanding that remembering contains both objective and subjective evidence about the past, and that the analysis of oralhistory interviews requires a multifaceted approach. In this chapter we will briefly outline current understandings about the nature of
Spatial and architectural memory
in oralhistories of working life
What happens if we invert the cliche ‘if walls could talk?’ and explore
what former factory workers might say about those walls? At first this
may sound absurd, but in a broad sense this chapter demonstrates this
very approach, for it is here that we turn our attention to the richness
of content contained within workers’ memories of the buildings in which
While the disciplines of oralhistory, design history and architectural history are all beginning to engage with
Memories of childrens cinema-going in London before the First World
Before 1906, there were no dedicated venues for the exhibition of film in London.
Five years later, cinemas had spread all over the city, and 200,000 people were
attending a film show in the city every day. Many in these first cinema audiences
were children. Significantly - indeed probably uniquely for the time - cinema was a
mass entertainment deliberated aimed at, and priced within the range of, the young.
Decades later, some of these children left memoirs (published or unpublished), or
were interviewed by oral historians. This body of evidence on the experience of
cinema-going before the First World War has been hitherto ignored by film historians.
This essay examines this testimony from London audience members, which is constructed
around the various stages of the act of going to the cinema. The testimony
demonstrates that the experience and the enjoyment of the social space that the
cinema provided were at least as important as the entertainment projected on the
screen. The early cinema demands greater recognition for its function as a social
sphere, and particularly as a welcoming place for children.
This book draws on original research into women’s workplace protest to deliver a new account of working-class women’s political identity and participation in post-war England. In doing so, the book contributes a fresh understanding of the relationship between feminism, workplace activism and trade unionism during the years 1968–85. The study covers a period that has been identified with the ‘zenith’ of trade union militancy. The women’s liberation movement (WLM) also emerged in this period, which produced a shift in public debates about gender roles and relations in the home and the workplace. Industrial disputes involving working-class women have been commonly understood as evidence of women’s growing participation in the labour movement, and as evidence of the influence of second-wave feminism on working-class women’s political consciousness. However, the voices and experiences of female workers who engaged in workplace protest remain largely unexplored. The book addresses this space through detailed analysis of four industrial disputes that were instigated by working-class women. It shows that labour force participation was often experienced or viewed as a claim to political citizenship in late modern England. A combination of oral history and written sources is used to illuminate how everyday experiences of gender and class antagonism shaped working-class women’s political identity and participation.
This book examines women’s experiences of motherhood in England in the years between 1945 and 2000. Based on a new body of 160 oral history interviews, the book offers the first comprehensive historical study of the experience of motherhood in the second half of the twentieth century. Motherhood is an area where a number of discourses and practices meet. The book therefore forms a thematic study looking at aspects of mothers’ lives such as education, health care, psychology, labour market trends and state intervention. Looking through the prism of motherhood provides a way of understanding the complex social changes that have taken place in the post-war world. This book will be essential reading for students and researchers in the field of twentieth-century British social history. However it will also be of interest to scholars in related fields and a general readership with an interest in British social history, and the history of family and community in modern Britain.
This book focuses on working class civilian men who as a result of working in reserved occupations were exempt from enlistment in the armed forces. It utilises fifty six newly conducted oral history interviews as well as autobiographies, visual sources and existing archived interviews to explore how they articulated their wartime experiences and how they positioned themselves in relation to the hegemonic discourse of military masculinity. It considers the range of masculine identities circulating amongst civilian male workers during the war and investigates the extent to which reserved workers draw upon these identities when recalling their wartime selves. It argues that the Second World War was capable of challenging civilian masculinities, positioning the civilian man below that of the ‘soldier hero’ while, simultaneously, reinforcing them by bolstering the capacity to provide and to earn high wages, both of which were key markers of masculinity.
On 25 July 1968, Pope Paul VI shook the world. His encyclical letter Humanae
Vitae rejected widespread calls to permit use of the contraceptive pill and
deemed artificial contraception ‘intrinsically evil’. The Catholic Church is now
commonly identified as the antagonist in a story of sixties sexual revolution –
a stubborn stone resisting the stream of sex-positive modernity. There has been
little consideration of how Catholic women themselves experienced this period of
cultural upheaval. This book is about the sexual and religious lives of Catholic
women in post-war England. It uses original oral history material to uncover the
way Catholic women negotiated spiritual and sexual demands at a moment when the
two increasingly seemed at odds with one another. The book also examines the
public pronouncements and secretive internal documents of the central Catholic
Church, offering a ground-breaking new explanation of the Pope’s decision to
prohibit the pill. The materials gathered here provide a fresh perspective on
the idea that ‘sex killed God’, reframing dominant approaches to the histories
of sex, religion and modernity. The memories of Catholic women help us
understand why religious belief does not structure the lives of most English men
and women today in the way it did at the close of the Second World War, why sex
holds a place of such significance in our modern culture, and crucially, how
these two developments related to one another. The book will be essential
reading for not only scholars of sexuality, religion, gender and oral history,
but anyone interested in post-war social change.
The NHS is traditionally viewed as a typically British institution; a symbol of national identity. It has however always been dependent on a migrant workforce whose role has until recently received little attention from historians. Migrant Architects draws on 45 oral history interviews (40 with South Asian GPs who worked through this period) and extensive archival research to offer a radical reappraisal of how the National Health Service was made. This book is the first history of the first generation of South Asian doctors who became GPs in the National Health Service. Their story is key to understanding the post-war history of British general practice and therefore the development of a British healthcare system where GPs play essential roles in controlling access to hospitals and providing care in community settings. Imperial legacies, professional discrimination and an exodus of British-trained doctors combined to direct a large proportion of migrant doctors towards work as GPs in industrial areas. In some parts of Britain they made up more than half of the GP workforce. This book documents the structural dependency of British general practice on South Asian doctors. It also focuses on the agency of migrant practitioners and their transformative roles in British society and medicine.
Ireland offers a particularly interesting canvas to study the social and political effects of the 1918–19 influenza pandemic, which is the largest the world has ever known. The influenza inserted itself into every running theme in Irish society, from the over-burdened and disjointed medical system, to the growing discontent with British rule, and the difficulties imposed by World War I. The influenza pandemic was contemporaneous with the so-called German plot, where anti-conscription campaigners had been interned on a trumped up charge by the government. Two of the internees would die from the disease, even as nationalists warned of the dangers of being imprisoned at this time. This work also draws on oral histories with survivors who spoke of this disease they suffered as children at the end of their lives. It tells how doctors had their new confidence in bacteriology challenged as it failed to provide answers to cure patients. It tells too of the families who suffered loss, and often changing financial circumstances when parents died. Life, for some, was never the same, whether through continued ill health or loss of loved ones.
Between 1954 and 1962, Algerian women played a major role in the struggle to end French rule in one of the most violent wars of decolonisation of the twentieth century. Our Fighting Sisters is the first in-depth exploration of what happened to these women after independence in 1962. Based on new oral history interviews with women who participated in the war in a wide range of roles, from members of the Algiers urban bomb network to women who supported the rural guerrilla, the book explores how female veterans viewed the post-independence state and its multiple discourses on ‘the Algerian woman’ in the fifty years following 1962, from the euphoria of national liberation to the civil violence of the 1990s. It also examines the ways in which these former combatants’ memories of the anti-colonial conflict intertwine with, contradict or coexist alongside the state-sponsored narrative of the war constructed after independence. Part of an emerging field of works seeking to write the post-independence history of Algeria, this book aims to go beyond reading Algeria through the lens of post-colonial trauma or through a series of politicised dichotomies pitching oppressed citizen against oppressive state, official commemoration verses vernacular memory or contrasting narratives of post-independence decline with post-colonial success stories. Instead, this book is about the contradictions and compromises of state-building and nation-building after decolonisation. Its wider conclusions contribute to debates about gender, nationalism and memory.