Oral historians

Harrison, Brian (6 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 6: Never had any ambition to be an administrator. Wanted to write books and did not want guidance as to what to write. While he was at Nuffield he considered joining the Civil Service. An aunt said, Brians researching. I wonder if hell ever find anything. Father was more understanding of Brians work and role. He died in 1966 when Brian was taking his D Phil and was due to meet Vicky his fiancée for the first time. He had a stroke. Doris looked after him but Brians father died soon after. Dedication in Brians first book is to him. Doris was good to his father. [05:40] Brian then stayed with his mother. Details about family economics. Then he married. His mother lived until she was 85. She could still not fully comprehend why he was spending his life in the way that he did. [07:56] Some kudos at Oxford as an undergraduate about having done National Service. Mentions Michael Hurst as a tutor. Taught himself Italian in Malta and did a special subject on the Italian Renaissance. Mentions Guy Wilson at Merchant Taylors School who inspired Brian and he became interested in the C19 and C20. Idea for temperance came from Harry Hanham who was then teaching political history at Manchester University. Brian wrote to him. Started straight away on researching the temperance movement. Reflects on former Merchant Taylor students at Oxford. Mentions Geoffrey Holland who became Head of the Manpower Services Commission. [14:36] In his third year he shared digs with David McClellan who is a retired professor of Political Theory at Canterbury. Deeply religious. Brian led a decidedly sober social life. College gave him a structure in his life. Used the British Museum (Library) for research and he took his own typewriter. More about his temperance research. [19:19] Describes how he researched the temperance project. Read Parliamentary debates. Used card index to catalogue details he found. Published four or five articles before the book. Worked on temperance until 1973. Impressed by Duvergers Political Parties (first English edition 1954), Identified with Tim Mason who was at St Antonys . Applied for various research jobs until got the one at Nuffield which gave him six years in total before getting a teaching post. Nervous about working there. Got interested in sociology and at this, the peak in British corporatist history, Nuffield was at the centre of things re contemporary politics. Oral history was important but only as a method of research. Did not use IT in temperance research but it came into its own with his work on womens history. [27:11] Researched history syllabuses in other universities by writing to them to collect data. Not enamoured by the Oxford syllabus. This carried on for 10 years then two school teachers took it over. Brian did the first edition with George Barlow, who did the second on his own. RP Blows did third, fourth and fifth, J.M.Bourne the sixth. [30:00] In the college servants project he interviewed Violet Butler who was the great aunt of David Butler the political scientist. She knew Josephine Butler the 19th century reformer. She had written a book about college servants in 1915. She also mentioned the Girls Friendly Society. It turned out to be interesting as it was set up to preserve the virginity of country girls coming to London. He wrote an article published in Past and present in Nov. 1973 called For Church, Queen and Family . He had decided to inform himself more fully about the Right in politics. He had a personal political shift, and voted Conservative in February 1974, but then resumed Labour voting till 1983. Talks about his interviews with women - 193 interviews with 183 people. All in London Metropolitan University Library. Recent Radio 4 programme. Published book Separate Spheres in 1978 with Croom Helm about the opposition to womens suffrage. Had earlier given a talk in St Annes College about this and found out about a rival book being prepared on the same subject so published ahead. Annoyed that the supervisor , Jennifer Hart, had not been in touch that her St. Annes student was starting on a thesis in the same area. The interviews he had done moved him forward into the womens movement. Published in 1987 Prudent Revolutionaries about the Inter War generation. Criticises some oral historians who saw the method as the end result. Mentions Paul Thompson and too much social anthropology. [37:40] Had a friendly difference of view with Tim Mason. Talks about how you have to hide your views when interviewing. Gave recordings to London Met in 1981. Have recently been digitised and made accessible. Some are not available because permission was not given. Recording of Mrs Wint[e]ringham, Liberal MP, between the wars. Nephew and niece refused permission for access. Learned from his temperance research, keeping a biographical index, for example . Never ultimately wrote the comparative historical study of pressure groups that hed earlier envisaged [44:37] Got interested in the history of the University. Trevor Aston was General Editor. He invited Brian to edit the last volume (on the 20th century). Wrote three chapters in the book and commissioned other people. Ran sessions with Michael Brock initially then on his own: 64 seminars which drew together various people from the University and recorded them. Issues around what was said as being recorded. Did his own transcripts. Good liaison with Oxford University Press. [47:47] Mentions the Dictionary of National Biography. Invited to become editor in late 1999. Started to do horrible admin jobs so when this came up was a way out. Went to see Keith Thomas, who advised him to take the job. He got parts of his card index digitised as part of the deal. Ivon Asquith agreed £10,000 budget. Quite a few problems. But he did interview people for the chapters in vol.8 of the history of the university that he wrote like Isaiah Berlin and Max Beloff. Wrote 29 articles for the Dictionary himself. Interviewed a booksellers widow. Interviews were few and far in between. The OUP organizer of the project was Robert Faber who did a lot of the admin. Friction between them from time to time. [52:30] Could not fit interviewing in to his work too easily for a while. Interviewed Dame Cicely Saunders and a dentist M.C.Downer in 1996. Commissioned to do one volume of The New Oxford History of England in 1994 and was contracted to deliver in 1998. Went to the library in the afternoons to do the research in between editing the Dictionary. [55:44] Mentions the project on the domestic servants in 1969. Only about 16 interviews. Talks about how they did it. All the servants have died. Written an article about oral history and political history. Written an article about the old series of The History of England. Interviewed for that Interviewed GN Clarks children and grandchild for this. Has interviewed about writings on the Conservative Party since 1945 which he has been working on. It grew out of an obituary he wrote for the Daily Telegraph on 22 Oct 2009 one of his undergraduate students, John Ramsden (now deceased). Still believes in interviewing. Had interviewed Raphael Samuel twice 1979 and 1987 Headington Quarry and life as an undergraduate (in the BL). Other interviews have been lodged with the BL.

  • 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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