Oral History and the British Left in the 1960s and 1970s
In this article, I consider the value and challenges of using oral history interviews to access and interpret narrative memories of men and women who became active in the left network around Britain’s anti-war movement, the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign. I focus in-depth on the individual stories of one man and one woman who, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, joined far left Trotskyist organisations. The stories reveal a two-fold search for past revolutionary and current selves. Reading between the shifting layers of past and present, the article will explore what deeper insights interviewing offers into the complex ways in which activists shaped subjectivities both in their far left groups and in the interview itself. It engages with the concept of inter-subjectivity to reflect on the interpersonal relationship between interviewer and interviewee in the oral history encounter. It thus considers the meeting of particular subjectivities and the role they played in shaping the oral history narratives. Through careful attention to my own internal state at the time of interviewing, and to how the interviewees’ stories made me feel, I seek to understand unconsidered political, social and emotional gendered experiences of life on the British far left around 1968.
Memory Studies, 2013, Vol 6, Issue 1, p. 70-90
Faculty of Humanities; 1960s Britain; composure; gender; inter-subjectivity; left subjectivity; selfhood