Oral History and Oral Tradition

Book Review

Rethinking Oral History and Oral Tradition: An Indigenous Perspective by Nepia Mahuika. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019 (Oxford Oral History Series). 288 pp. 978-0-1906-81685, Hardcover, $74.00
“Nepia Mahuika has authored a book deeply needed by the field of oral history. It is a book that has the potential to destabilize productively and transform how we as oral historians think about our work.” For full review click here.
Read selected pages here.

1971 War that led to creation of Bangladesh

“The 1971 war is ingrained within the political and cultural imagination of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. For nearly five decades, the “three children of Partition” have institutionalised the memory of this conflict at both the state and the people’s level in a manner that reinforces their respective state narratives. Anam Zakaria’s 1971: A people’s history from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India captures the nuances in a way the civil war that led to the creation of Bangladesh is embedded in the psyche of these three nations. Through interviews and detailed scrutiny of history-writing processes, museum exhibits and memorials, Zakaria’s account depicts how the cataclysmic events of 1971 are remembered and forgotten. 1971 doesn’t rely on a careful retelling of historical facts or profess to make any groundbreaking discoveries. On the contrary, the book places people at the fulcrum of the debate and uses the oral history method to unravel their war memories.” For full story click here.

Challenging usual form of oral history

“According to Amy Starecheski, oral history is defined as “an ethical practice of producing knowledge about the past through listening and dialogue,” which she said often looks like a formal interview. Through exploring the stories of institutionalized people, Berger and Sonneborn’s work grapples with the limits of oral history. In confronting these limits, the oral history series aims to ask what the practice looks like “if we center that ethical, collaborative process of listening and of making meaning together rather than fetishizing the oral, and thinking about how [we can] learn and understand the stories of people who don’t speak or who don’t speak much,” Starecheski said.” Read full article here.

Lincoln Presidential Library

“The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Oral History Program has recorded its 1,000th interview, reaching a milestone that few oral history programs anywhere in America have achieved. The interviews, totaling more than 2,900 hours of conversation, include veterans telling war stories, farmers talking about rural life, activists recalling civil rights battles and athletes sharing moments of victory and defeat. Among the treasure trove of memories are 275 interviews with Illinois veterans, 268 about education, 215 on Illinois government and politics and 88 related to agriculture. Audio from every interview is available online at, and many are accompanied by a video, photos, and full transcripts.” Read full story here.

Battle of Britain Veteran Dies

“In England they are known as “The Few”, the pilots who defended their country from Nazi aerial assault in the Battle of Britain during World War II. Among “The Few,” whose ranks numbered approximately 3000, Paul Farnes was one of the last surviving. And of those who remained, he was believed to be the only ace, or aviator with the distinction of downing five or more enemy aircraft.” Read full story here.

Collecting American Music

“The Oral History of American Music includes interviews with a wide range of musical figures, from Charles Ives to Laurie Anderson. There are nearly 3,000 recorded conversations with white, black and Hispanic creative artists from the worlds of classical, jazz and experimental music.”  Read full story here which includes a link to the website.

Holocaust survivors’ stories rediscovered

The movie Soul Witness is based on over 80 hours of Holocaust video testimony, conducted approximately 30 years ago in Brookline. Interviews ranged from 45 minutes to 7 hours. The goal of the effort was to memorialize the Holocaust through video testimony interviews. See full story here. See also the links for more information – a radio interview, and the website The Story of Soul Witness.

Computer history

Gary Starkweather, who defied his corporate boss to invent the laser printer, a revolutionary development that made it possible to print images and text directly from computer terminals in homes and offices, died Dec. 26 at a hospital in Orlando. He was 81. Read full story here.

Starkweather did an oral history for the Computer History Museum in California. Search for “oral history” to watch videos of their collection.

Generation Gulag

“It was our first interview shoot for Coda Story’s Generation Gulag series and we were running late. Irina Verblovskaya, 86, was expecting us but our film crew couldn’t find her tiny green cottage hidden in a forest about half an hour outside St. Petersburg. Our minivan cruised down narrow roads until we got out and walked through the birch forest, stopping at almost identical cottage homes to ask for directions. When we finally pulled up to the right one, Irina made it clear how very late we were: “Why are you here?” she asked, raising her hands up and she walked towards us across the lawn. “What are you doing here now? Where were you 10 years ago?” Were we too late? This was our first question at Coda when we began thinking about tracking down the remaining Gulag survivors. Why were we doing this now?” Read full story here and click on the word “here” below each photograph in the story for a link to a video interview with the photograph subject.