oral history


Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.
Related to oral history: oral tradition

oral history,

compilation of historical data through interviews, usually tape-recorded and sometimes videotaped, with participants in, or observers of, significant events or times. Primitive societies have long relied on oral tradition to preserve a record of the past in the absence of written histories. In Western society, the use of oral material goes back to the early Greek historians HerodotusHerodotus
, 484?–425? B.C., Greek historian, called the Father of History, b. Halicarnassus, Asia Minor. Only scant knowledge of his life can be gleaned from his writings and from references to him by later writings, notably the Suda.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (in his history of the Persian Wars) and ThucydidesThucydides
, c.460–c.400 B.C., Greek historian of Athens, one of the greatest of ancient historians. His family was partly Thracian. As a general in the Peloponnesian War he failed (424 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (in his History of the Peloponnesian War), both of whom made extensive use of oral reports from witnesses. The modern concept of oral history was developed in the 1940s by Allan NevinsNevins, Allan,
1890–1971, American historian, b. Camp Point, Ill. After studying at the Univ. of Illinois, he followed a career in journalism until 1927. Teaching at Columbia from 1928, he became a full professor in 1931 and was made De Witt Clinton professor of American
..... Click the link for more information.
 and his associates at Columbia Univ. In creating oral histories, interviews are conducted to obtain information from different perspectives, many of which are often unavailable from written sources. Such materials provide data on individuals, families, important events, or day-to-day life.

The discipline came into its own in the 1960s and early 70s when inexpensive tape recorders were available to document such social movements as civil rights, feminism, and anti–Vietnam War protest. Authors such as Studs TerkelTerkel, Studs,
1912–2008, American writer, social historian, and radio and television personality, b. the Bronx, N.Y., as Louis Terkel, grad. Univ. of Chicago (Ph.B. 1932, J.D. 1934).
..... Click the link for more information.
, Alex Haley, and Oscar LewisLewis, Oscar,
1914–70, American anthropologist, b. New York City, grad. City College of New York (B.S.S., 1936) and Columbia (Ph.D., 1940). He was a professor of anthropology at Washington Univ. (St. Louis) from 1946 to 1948 and after that at the Univ. of Illinois.
..... Click the link for more information.
 employed oral history in their books, many of which are largely based on interviews. In another important example of the genre, a massive archive covering the oral history of American music was compiled at the Yale School of Music. Oral history had become a respected discipline in many colleges and universities by the end of the 20th cent., when the Italian historian Alessandro Portelli and his associates began to study the role that memory itself, whether accurate or faulty, plays in the themes and structures of oral history. Their published work has since become standard material in the field, and many oral historians now include in their research the study of the subjective memory of the persons they interview.

Bibliography

See S. Caunce, Oral History (1994); V. R. Yow, Recording Oral History (1994), R. Perks and A. Thomson, The Oral History Reader (repr. 1998).

Oral history

Primary source material obtained by recording spoken words, generally by means of a planned tape recorded interview.

oral history

a method of historical research, especially SOCIAL HISTORY, in which the recollections of living persons are collected (e.g. Thompson, 1981). The assumption is that the data collected in this way particularly from ordinary people, will provide a valuable data archive for future as well as present historians. As for any historical sources, oral historical data require careful appraisal for reliability and representativeness. See also HISTORY, HISTORY WORKSHOP JOURNAL.
References in periodicals archive ?
The National Service Life Stories oral history project is looking to interview men from Tyneside who did National Service between 1949 and 1962.
The aim of the conference is at learning information, which would be added to the information already there in the nations archival holdings and to boost and help the recording, preservation, access, popularisation and study of oral history in South Africa.
Allan said: "The Small Is festival is a fitting place to launch a history book about CAT and we're excited to be hosting a dynamic young festival bringing together artists, thinkers and doers working towards creating a better environmental future, while reflecting on the past listening to the voices from a disused quarry collected through CAT's oral history project.
Utilizing oral history interviews, the author traces how the community, and its sub-communities, developed in the context of complicated social networks, political affiliations, and power relations.
Abraham includes the Palestinians as players in a complex historical conflict where they often have no voice, while Field discusses the application of oral history to address the impact of apartheid on displaced Capetown communities.
Harvey Young and Queen Meccasia Zabriskie raise the curtain on a rarely discussed subject of the Black Theater in their book, Black Theatre Is Black Life: An Oral History of Chicago Theater and Dance, 1970-2010.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA) will host the first GCC Heritage and Oral History Forum to highlight the importance of oral history in preserving the UAE's cultural heritage from September 14 to 16.
Caption: MD of MultiChoice Roger Gertze (left) with oral history project leader, Dr Audrin Mathe.
Complete details on how to submit an oral history can be found at http://lincolnslegacyoralhistories.
The tellers of tales were all academics and community groups with oral history projects based in and around Huddersfield.
WE, a group of historians based at the Scottish Oral History Centre at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, are embarking on a project to interview men from all over the country who were in reserved occupations in Britain during the Second World War.
Punk Rock: An Oral History provides interviews which many musicians who were at the forefront of the punk rock movement, from Chrissie Hynde and Siouxsie Sioux to Hernry Rollins, and offers a fine oral history of the UK punk rock movement of the 70s which will prove key to any modern music history collection.