Harrison, Brian (19 of 25). Oral History of Oral History
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2012-01-24, 2012-02-24, 2012-03-27, 2012-04-24, 2012-05-18, 2012-06-27
Harrison, Brian, 1937- (speaker, male)
Wilkinson, Robert (speaker, male)
Part 19: Colin Webb, who looks after Brians garden, was a printer at the OUP. Oral History Society Brian did join in when it was being formed. Learned a lot from Paul and Thea Thompson. Mentions that John Saville was brilliant about setting up the Societys constitution. Never related with Paul politically. Did not need oral history as a central part of his work. Paul and Brian came from the same college at Oxford. Social anthropology was not important, more social scientist. This seems to me the reverse of what I would have said: that is, that for the oral historians social anthropology was MORE important than the more scientific approaches to social inquiry [05:50] Historical method common sense is most important. Not much technical skill. In history. Does not like footnotes. Gave a seminar at Essex. Paul Thompson and Alan Howkins were there. Alan complained that there was no theory in Brians talk, which annoyed Brian, who doesnt think theory worth wasting much time on. Tension in the Society between Theo Barker and Paul Thompson. Raphael Samuel was supportive of George Ewart Evans, who was surprisingly deferential to academics. Brians guest editorship for one Journal. Never himself integrated into oral history as a Movement. Did write a long review about Paul Thompsons Voice of the Past in the college magazine for 1978-9. [15:00-18:28 closed until 1st September 2032] [18:29] Never made any significant income from publications. Has had good health. [21:10] Writing comes very naturally to him. Writes and enjoys writing letters a lot. No problem with motivation. Presently working on a successor volume to the two he published on the New Oxford History of England series - 1990-2010, but the successor volume will NOT be in the NOHE series. Would like to do an update on Separate Spheres and well as to The Transformation of British Politics. Gets his newspapers from the college by intervening between the College and its wastepaper basket. Acknowledges SCR staff in his books who keep the newspapers for him. Talked to Michael Marmot about Type A people, among whom he includes himself, but there are two types of Type A person: those who are obsessive because stimulated (healthy), and those who are obsessive because lacking in control over their circumstances (unhealthy). Fellows (in control) tend to live longer than college employees (not in control). [32:00] Support Brian received from librarians and archivists. Talks about his research on temperance and finding documents in temperance libraries that their custodians didnt know about. Published a bibliography of temperance sources in 1967. Used Colindale Newspaper Library very freely, in the stacks. Mentions the Fawcett Library and lack of indexing of material. More about methods of research, and about similarities with Keith Thomass research methods. Has been working on a talk on the history of planning and how a shape tends unpredictably to emerge from research as one goes along. Improvements due to digitisation. Mentions an Aneurin Bevan quote he found recently on the Net. Books seem likely to become redundant mentions his collection. Frustration of age and not being able to write books he would have liked to write, Keith Thomas has offered a lot of support on the New Oxford History of England volumes, and ever since Brian graduated. Not acknowledged in the preface though because as Brian was worried they entangle Keith in a book that might turn out to be a flop. Asa Briggs is another influence. He went to see him as a young graduate student. After seeing him he wrote up a text for a biography of the Chartist Henry Vincent (never published) and Briggs helpfully suggested a contact at Faber. Still in contact with Asa. [48:55] Teaching techniques were learnt from ones tutor then at Oxford. Brian thinks he was quite demanding as a tutor and (he hoped) gave honest comment. Students gave him a dinner when he retired in 2004. Plenty of opportunity in Oxford if you wanted to do non-teaching roles. Never overran his tutorials: Oxford undergraduates get quite enough senior members time without overruns. Mentions John Ramsden and his book The Age of Balfour and Baldwin. Did not volunteer to take on graduate students. Oxford was very badly organised then about organizing supervision for graduate students fractured relationships between colleges and the University. He hated examining did not believe in the structures, fair-minded though they might be within their limits. He invited three rogues (underperforming undergraduate pupils, often charming) to his leaving dinner, one was Christopher Hitchens. He wrote a terrible essay which Brian thought was one of the worst he ever encountered. Liked to keep one day a week for research.
Life story interview with Brian Harrison, original committee members of the Oral History Society and Emeritus Professor of history at University of Oxford.