When many people think about history, they think about dusty books anddocuments, archives and libraries, or remote castles and stately homes. Infact history is all around us, in our own families and communities, in the livingmemories and the experiences of older people. We have only to ask themand they can tell us enough stories to fill a library of books. This kind of history - that we all gather as we go through life - is called ORAL HISTORY.Everyone has a story to tell about their life which is unique to them. Somepeople have been involved in momentous historical events like the SecondWorld War, but many others haven't. Regardless of age or importance we allhave interesting experiences to share.
Half past seven we had to be in. And when I was courting Reg, it was half past nine. We used to go into the parlour when Reg and I were courting and about half past nine they would give Reg a cup of tea and m'dad would get the alarm clock off the mantelpiece and wind it, he was ready for bed and that was a good hint for Reg to go.
Barrow women b.1904
Most importantly, historical documents and books can't tell us everythingabout our past. Often they concentrate on famous people and big events, andtend to miss out ordinary people talking about everyday events. They alsoneglect people on the margins of society - ethnic communities, disabled andunemployed people for example - whose voices have been hidden fromhistory. Oral history fills in the gaps and gives us history which includeseveryone.
When I came my dream shattered the moment I got off the plane, you know.I saw the buildings - black, everywhere. I came in March and it was still wintry and it was so dark. You could see the pigeon droppings everywhere. I said,"My goodness, it's supposed to be a heavenly place!" And when I came Ifound that everything was just the same as you find in India - mugging,cheating, telling lies....I was very depressed. I thought I'd see wonderfulthings. Even the Christmas cards we used to get from Britain we so beautiful.
Indian man arriving in Britain in the 1960's.
Unfortunately, because memories die when people do, if we don't recordwhat people tell us it is history that is lost for ever.
WHAT CAN PEOPLE REMEMBER?
Everyone forgets things as time goes by and we all remember things indifferent ways. Some people's memories are better than others and forreasons we don't really understand, many people actually remember theirearly years more as they get older. This is helpful when we want to tape-record peoples memories. All memories are a mixture of facts and opinions,and both are important. The way in which people make sense of their lives isvaluable historical evidence in itself. Few of us are good at remembering