The Past Meets The Present Essays On Oral History

The Past Meets The Present Essays On Oral History-74
Within this movement oral historians have approached the collection, analysis and dissemination of oral history in different ways.In broad terms while oral historians in Western Europe and North America have often focused on issues of identity and cultural difference, oral historians in Latin America and Eastern Europe have tended to pursue more overtly political projects.On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.

Within this movement oral historians have approached the collection, analysis and dissemination of oral history in different ways.In broad terms while oral historians in Western Europe and North America have often focused on issues of identity and cultural difference, oral historians in Latin America and Eastern Europe have tended to pursue more overtly political projects.On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.

However, there are many ways of doing oral history even within single national contexts.

In Britain the Oral History Society has played a key role in facilitating and developing the use of oral history.

However practitioners across a range of academic disciplines have also developed the method into a way of recording, understanding and archiving narrated memories.

Oral history has also emerged as an international movement.

Internationally oral historians are represented by the International Oral History Association (IOHA).

Oral history was 'the first kind of history' according to Paul Thompson in The Voice of the Past,(1) a key publication in the re-emergence of oral history.

For centuries the use of oral sources in understanding the past was commonplace.

Thucydides, the Greek historian writing in the 5th century BC, made much of the accounts of eye-witnesses of the Peloponnesian Wars, 'Whose reports', he claimed, 'I have checked with as much thoroughness as possible'.(2) By the time Bede came to write his History of the English Church and People, completed in 731 AD, he simply noted his thanks to 'countless faithful witnesses who either know or remember the facts'.(3) Even as late as 1773 Samuel Johnson expressed a keen interest in oral histories and oral tradition in his study of Scottish beliefs and customs There then followed a long period when written sources seemed to dominate the practices of professional historians in the west.

He writes: “History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read.

And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past.

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