George Ewart Evans

(1909—1988) historian and writer

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One of the founders of Oral History in Britain, he was the son of a shopkeeper in the mining village of Abercynon in Glamorgan. He came to Suffolk in the 1930s to work as a teacher and writer, and after the war he discovered a field which absorbed him, and his readers, for the rest of his life. After hearing his Blaxhall neighbours, Robert and Priscilla Savage, a retired shepherd and his wife, using dialect and country words which Evans recognized from his reading of 16th-century poets, he realized the long tradition of farming and village ways which was about to be swept away as the last generation who had used horse-power and hand tools gradually faded away. In a series of highly readable books based on his researches, mainly in Suffolk, Evans wrote about this rural heritage, gradually refining a methodology which combined interviewing with wide reading, and he became a passionate advocate for ‘… getting history directly from the people, and going about introducing the technique to schools, continuing education classes, and groups in universities all over Britain’ (Spoken History, p. xiii). From the first book, Evans always put his living informants centre-stage and this feature caught the attention of a rising generation of social historians who went on to forge the new field of Oral History.

Books by Evans: Ask the Fellows Who cut the Hay (1956); The Horse in the Furrow (1960); The Pattern Under the Plough (1966); The Farm and the Village (1969); Where Beards Wag All (1970); The Leaping Hare (with David Thomson) (1972); The Days We Have Seen (1975); From Mouths of Men (1976); Horse Power and Magic (1979); Spoken History (1987); The Crooked Scythe: An Anthology of Oral History (1993). Also his autobiography, The Strength of the Hills (1983).Gareth Evans, George Ewart Evans (1991); Alun Howkins, Oral History 22:2 (1994), 26–32; Obituary by Trefor Owen, Folklore 99:1 (1988), 126.

Subjects: History.

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