Oral historians

Harrison, Brian (8 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 8: [Session three: 27 March 2012] College Servants project probably came from an idea of Trevor Aston. Concerns about the narrowness of the Oxford history curriculum. Does not like the Oxford tutorial system as well as wider academic issues. Wanted to widen the course. Not his first endeavour with oral history. Mentions interview with Douglas Veale in 1963. Never done a systematic project as per Paul Thompson. Recorded about 16 interviews. Did do some more interviews some years later with college employees for Corpuscle which he edited. With the suffragette project he simply interviewed people who survived. History of the University he interviewed a number of prominent people randomly. [09:21] Takes Raphael Samuels line in issues around accuracy that lies or myths are interesting. Mentions his Headington Quarry project and his interest in the ways that people speak. Talks about the deep conservatism of the college servants. Talks about the recruitment of students to the project. Period of student riots worry about tutor/student relationships. Mentions two Canadian students (one called Amyot) who were stirring things up at Corpus. This was tied in with Tim Mason who applied for a Fellowship at Corpus. Trevor Astons post was vacant. He was a medievalist. Who would replace him? Brian made the case for a modern historian. He thought that Tim would be good for the college. Tim was a student of Trevor Aston. He was against Tim and thought Brian was feeding him with information. Brian had to apologise to the Governing Body. At a Governing Body meeting a Fellow in Chemistry had a copy of EP Thompsons book Warwick University Limited as evidence of what social history could do. David Phillips, the Professor of Physiology, spoke up for it. Stumped the President! [21:20] Likely to have been Trevor Aston who thought of the college servants project. Brian eventually joined the history of the University project in 1985. Mentions Trevor Astons role in Past and Present. He also helped to shape the project. Students were excellent. Describes interviewing in the college servants in their homes. Trevor had a tape recorder and Brian had his fathers Grundig. The students transcribed the interviews all are now in Brians garage. They went on to interview Oxford bigwigs Maurice ?, Michael Brock GN Clark and also a Trinity College servant. Andrew Purkis became the Director of the Diana, Princess of Wales fund. David Lay went into the BBC, Michael Baker went into the media. They tended to like the process with the recording equipment. [35:10] Brian always hid the equipment. One occasion an 80 year old suffragette tripped over the wires. They interviewed in pairs. He quotes from Joseph Arch about working class people keeping quiet due to their vulnerability. Relates that to college servants. They did produce questionnaires which the interviewees filled in after the interview. The project cut across the confidentiality that riddled the college. Oral history is incompatible with how Oxford colleges work. [43:34] One or two graduate students joined in including Richard Carwardine, now President of CC. Describes the projects method of assembling data. Andrew Purkis, proposed to study college servants for his D Phil thesis but he was discouraged from doing so. Brian had a contemporary at Nuffield, Julia Sutherland, who was told by a female Don that womens history was not important. [45:47] More about Tim Mason and his influence. No passion to publish the project immediately. Some difficult content. Also students were doing Finals. One, Ashley de Jonge, got a Third but a good interviewer. Brian published an article in Oral History as a guest editor about the project. Interviewed four employees in the 1980s a chef, John Knowland the SCR butler, The maintenance man and the head porter. Few scouts by then. Mentions the ceasing of climbing in at night as a social change almost unremarked. [51:00] College servants project was a rescue job. Compares to others like George Ewart Evans agricultural workers. Talks about sociological approach as opposed to his randomness. Embedded interviews. Makes the point that every college is different CC all male until 1979. Brian was earlier defeated in trying to accept women into the college.

  • 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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