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Research Guides

Oral Histories as Primary Sources

Oral histories provide a unique, personal angle on history and often gives voice to the everyday person. However it important to keep in mind the following:

  • Oral histories are by their very nature subjective and individualistic.
  • Oral histories are interviews and the interview questions, as well as the interpersonal dynamic between interviewer and interviewee, shape the content of an oral history.
  • Oral histories are based on memory and memory is both selective and fallible. Events may be collapsed and dates may be off as the interviewee attempts to tell a coherent and consistent story of the past.
  • Because of the subjective and fallible nature of memory, the accuracy of oral histories needs to be weighed by comparing it with other evidence.

For more information on using oral histories as primary sources see: Making Sense of Oral History

Doing Oral History