Introduction: The Evolution of Oral History

Donald A. Ritchie

in The Oxford Handbook of Oral History

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780195339550
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Introduction: The Evolution of Oral History


Oral history is as old as the first recorded history and as new as the latest digital recorder. Long before the practice acquired a name and standard procedures, historians conducted interviews to gain insight into great events, beginning at least as early as Thucydides, who used oral history for his account of the Peloponnesian wars. In the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson commented that “all history was at first oral,” but the term “oral history” was first used in reference to troubadours and oral traditions. However, the study of oral history was taken up seriously only during the twentieth century. Oral history did not attach itself to interviewing until an article appeared in the New Yorker in 1942 about Joe Gould, a Greenwich Village bohemian who claimed to be compiling “An Oral History of Our Time”. This article further discusses the importance of oral history projects and oral historians at the same time.

Keywords: oral history; recorded history; Thucydides; Peloponnesian wars; bohemian

Article.  7923 words. 

Subjects: History ; Oral History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »