Journal Article

Presidential Oral History: The Clinton Presidential History Project

Russell L. Riley

in The Oral History Review

Published on behalf of Oral History Association

Volume 34, issue 2, pages 81-106
Published in print January 2007 | ISSN: 0094-0798
Published online January 2007 | e-ISSN: 1533-8592 | DOI:
Presidential Oral History: The Clinton Presidential History Project

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Most conventional oral history takes a bottom-up approach to the past, focusing on settings where there is little in the way of a functional written record. This essay discusses the value of oral history in the opposite case of the American presidency. The written archive and journalistic record on each president is immense. Yet oral history is a valuable resource in this elite environment, too. There are routine silences in even the best of presidential papers, which oral history interviews can help fill. Moreover, the White House has become a workplace where recorded details can be hazardous to one's political health. Accordingly, few presidential aides today keep diaries or notes of key meetings—impoverishing the archive future historians will use to study the presidency of our times. Oral history thus fortifies a weakening documentary record. This essay explores these broad issues and how they are being dealt with in the conduct of the William J. Clinton Presidential History Project.

Keywords: Elite; Political; President; White House; Clinton

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Oral History

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