Oral Testimony and the History of Medicine

Kate Fisher

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199546497
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191744006 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Oral Testimony and the History of Medicine

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This article surveys the historiographical trends in medical history that have fostered the rise in the use of oral history. It discusses different approaches that serve to bring individual experiences and human agents into the historical frame, humanizing our understanding of the national and international institutions, professions, governments, and organizations that shape medical history. Oral history reveals the clinicians behind changing medical treatments and the personal experiences behind patient populations or epidemiological trends. This article argues, however, that oral history needs to do more; rather, it should aim to chart and explore the relationship between the structures of medicine and human experience. Furthermore, it discusses that oral testimony does not document the past, but is an individual's interpretation of it; historians therefore need to interrogate it as such, exploring why people remember in certain ways, what is forgotten or misremembered, and what such memories mean for the present.

Keywords: historiographical trends; medical history; oral history; oral testimony; clinicians

Article.  9474 words. 

Subjects: Oral History

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