Oral historians

Harrison, Brian (4 of 25).  Oral History of Oral History

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  • Recording date

    2012-01-24, 2012-02-24, 2012-03-27, 2012-04-24, 2012-05-18, 2012-06-27

  • Interviewees

    Harrison, Brian, 1937- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Wilkinson, Robert (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 4: [Session two: 24 February 2012] Anecdote on how his mother met his father is corrected. [01:35] being prepared at prep school for Common Entrance to Merchant Taylors School. Relationships with parents. Mother had a friendship with neighbours, Frank Robinson and his wife. He worked for Kodak. Brian used to go up as well to listen to records. Mother fell out with them. However Brian continued to see them. Another couple were Dick and Rose King. Dick was very open minded. These two couples were important to Brian. [10:00] Unhappy for a while at Merchant Taylors School. Worked behind the counter at his parents shop. He was good behind the counter and with money. They later had two shops, one a post office. More on family relationships. First shop they had was in Notting Hill. Post office, toys cigarettes and sweets. Uncle Geoffrey (eldest brother of Brians mother living in England) got them a second shop. Mother pushed father to sleep in a separate room. When Brian came back from National Service his mother was about to move out. She learned to drive and went to live with the driving instructor. Some violence in the relationship and she left the driving instructor. Brother Geoffrey got her a house. Brian moved in with her. [24:46] Father got a girlfriend, Doris, an employee. He was running a sub post office in Kentish Town area. Brian lived with him for a while, then with his mother. He spoke to his tutor, Keith Thomas, and he was allowed to stay in college during vacations. Talks about his own sexual thoughts and how it was postponed.[29:10] National Service Catterick. Describes the first fortnight. Then went on officer training. Describes what they did. Complained about the food. Sent to Berkshire (Mons) for a six week course, then back to Catterick. He was still 18 and was due to go to Malta in the Signals. Found socialising with other officers difficult. He was made military transport officer in Malta signal squadron. Gives further details of life in Malta. Mentions a Sgt Mears who made a complaint against him. He was a Second Lieutenant. [46:00] His father came to Malta without telling him. Difficult circumstance. More about his mothers relationship with Roy, the driving instructor, with Brian colluding with his father to remove her car from outside his house. [54:30] More about Malta and the staff there. Promoted to looking after the more technical aspect of the squadrons signals. Went home slowly across Europe when demobbed and mentioned where he went before coming back to England. Mother said he had to get a job. Father got him a job in Selfridges in 1958 behind the record counter. Good at selling and getting commission.[1:03:00] Oxford got on well there. Number two for the HWC Davis Prize at end of first year. End of second year he won the Gibbs Scholarship with £300 per year for three years to buy books. Got more interested in an academic career. First person in the familys English branch to go to university. Got a senior scholarship to St Antonys College Oxford. Researched the temperance movement. Describes how he researched it. Mentions Keith Robbins who became Vice Chancellor of Lampeter University and the first encounter with interviewing giving tutorial to two students. Temperance research. Interviewing made him more tolerant. Stayed in Salvation Army hostels whilst doing his research. Accumulated a vast quantity of materials. Supervisors were Peter Mathias at Cambridge he written about the brewing industry. Presented his thesis in 1966. Interviewed for a Junior Research Fellow post at Nuffield College at the end of his second year at St Antonys. Describes the interview. Lived in at Nuffield College. Whilst starting at St Antonys he asked tutor, James Joll how he kept his research material. A.L.Rowse invited Brian to tea at All Souls. Brian asked him the same question he used drawers to store them. Brian used a card index. Still has the cards in his garage. Now computerised since 1997. [1:14:20] Got his D.Phil by the skin of his teeth. Relates a project at prep school where he collected too much material in a similar fashion. The thesis was a third too long, according to the regulations. Write an article in History Today in 1963 about temperance tracts. This brought him into contact with Michael Sissons a literary agent for AD Peters in London. Typescript ready by 1968. Then a year reducing it. Published as Drink and the Victorians in 1971. Became increasingly sympathetic to temperance movement around self-help. [1:18:20] Started looking to get married. Met his wife at a sherry party and invited her to dinner at St Antonys and she invited him to dinner at St Annes. Married 2nd January 1967 at the Registry Office. Rented a house from St Johns In Juxon Street. Never intended to spend his life in Oxford. His wife was working towards her degree in physiology. She got a First and did research and got her D.Phil. Brian got a Fellowship at Corpus Christi lecturer in modern British history, after applying for relevant posts in three Oxford colleges. Corpus invited him to meet the Fellows and offered him the job without a formal interview. Bought a house in Rowland Close in Wolvercote.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Brian Harrison, original committee members of the Oral History Society and Emeritus Professor of history at University of Oxford.

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