Mile End Institute

Oral History and the Study of Contemporary British Politics

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25 November 2015

Time: 10:00am
Venue: British Library

Oral history constitutes one of the core research methodologies of the contemporary political historian. 

From interviews with former Cabinet ministers and high-ranking officials to the recorded testimonies of grassroots activists and ordinary citizens, oral history can enrich and complicate narratives of change and continuity about government and politics in the recent past. It also poses considerable intellectual, ethical and practical challenges both to researchers conducting their own oral history projects and those utilising the archived oral sources collected by others.

The event was part of a wider programme of activity on the theme of Rethinking Contemporary British Political History, which is funded by a British Academy’s Rising Star Engagement Award held by Dr Helen McCarthy at Queen Mary University of London. 

For information about the British Library’s extensive oral history collections visit Over 3,000 interviews can be accessed in full at

Plenary address

Dr Anna Bryson (Queen’s University Belfast): Oral History in the Shadow of Conflict: Ethics, Risk and Trust

Activism and Community

Dr Natalie Thomlinson (University of Wolverhampton): Women’s Liberation and the Politics of Race

Daisy Payling (University of Birmingham): Social activism, local government and the Left in Sheffield, 1970-1990

Government and Policy

Dr Catherine Haddon (Institute for Government): The Contemporary History of Whitehall

Dr Thomas Lean (British Library): Privatisation and the Politics of Power: Oral History and the Privatisation of the Electricity Supply Industry in Thatcher's Britain

Parliament and Constituency

Dr Emma Peplow and Dr Priscila Pivatto  (History of Parliament Trust): The History of Parliament Oral History Project

Dr Emma Peplow and Dr Kayleigh Milden (History of Parliament Trust): ‘From the Grassroots’: Oral History and Party Politics in Devon

Collecting, Archiving and Re-use

Informal discussion led by Mary Stewart (British Library) followed by final reflections led by Rob Perks and Helen McCarthy