Fifty Years On: An International Perspective on Oral History

Thomson, Al (1998) Fifty Years On: An International Perspective on Oral History. Journal of American History, 85 (2). pp. 581-595. ISSN 00218723

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Abstract

According to the recorded tradition of the North American Oral History Association, "oral history was established in 1948 as a modern technique for historical documentation when Columbia University historian Allan Nevins began recording the memoirs of persons significant in American life." This essay explores significant issues in oral history, fifty years on. It focuses on four developments that are central to the current concerns of oral historians, drawing on lessons from oral history projects around the world. First, scholars now recognize that interviewing operates within culturally specific systems of communication, so that there is not necessarily a single or universal "right way" to do oral history. Second, new thinking about memory and history has posed new opportunities and dilemmas in the interpretation of oral testimony. Third, an increasing emphasis on the value that remembering has for the narrator has broadened the practice of oral history so that it can be more than a research methodology. Finally, as new technologies expand ways of generating interviews and presenting oral history, they spotlight concerns about how people's memories are used or abused in public representation. This survey offers no definitive conclusions or recommendations; it is instead intended to suggest pointers for continuing debate.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: (subsequently published in two other international collections: in Tales of the Century: Oral History Association of Australia Journal 21 1999 pp. 82-91; and as ¿Aos cinq¿enta anos: uma perspectiva internacional da hist¿ria oral¿ in Marieta De Moraes F
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Centre for Community Engagement
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:39
Last Modified: 30 May 2012 08:14
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/27271
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