|Course Title||Oral History|
The purpose of the MA history degree is to train students in a variety of approaches to history. Oral history is not only an approach worthy of study in its own right, but also an approach which helps throw light on some of the darker corners of Latvian history. The history of Latvia in the twentieth century is still far from fully studied – much remains to be done in terms of in-depth research. The written record of the Soviet period is one-sided, often falsified or simply silent on many events, relationships and attitudes. It is inevitable, then, that historians should turn to oral history as an essential source. Its use not only enables historians to confirm facts or data but also to provide information on how people related to what was happening around them, and how they understood the events through which they were living, that is restoring the human face of the impersonal forces of history.
The course covers people’s memories of twentieth century Latvia and will be based around a number of studies in local regions. It is likely that many of these will be concerned with the first two decades of the Soviet period (1940 – 1960). Specific themes will be agreed with the tutor.
I. AIM OF THE COURSE
Students should be prepared in the approaches and techniques of oral history.
First and foremost students must be introduced to ethical aspects of oral history.
Students must learn:
· to differentiate between the subjective and objective nature of what is presented to them;
· to ascertain clearly the time scale of the material they are presented with;
· to operate on the basis of agreed questions, while allowing the interviewee to speak freely.
Students should also comprehend some of the problems, which are intrinsic to the study of the oral history. Such issues include:
· both finding and selecting those to be interviewed;
· recording their memories or other evidence;
· interpreting and analysing that evidence both in its own context and that available from other sources.
II. ROLE OF THE COURSE IN THE OVERALL DEGREE CURRICULUM
Oral History is an optional course in the History Masters’ Study Program at Daugavpils University. The course is provided for students who are to write their thesis using oral evidence. The course is to be taught during the second semester of the first study year (usually in January – June). In Daugavpils University MA studies are organized in a seminar form once a month.
III. METHODS USED
The course will be built around case studies of the local area from which the student comes, but before developing their fieldwork the students will be introduced to the specific nature of oral history sources. In particular, they will learn how to approach and how to record the memories of the person or people that will become their historical source. The course will be taught through a combination of an introductory lecture, theoretical studies, discussions and practical tasks.
IV. COURSE CONTENT
The course consists of 12 hours of theoretical studies, it is meant to proceed mostly as seminars, followed by the practical assignment including conducted and fixed (both in audio (video) and written form) interviews, interpreted by the interviewer.
The evaluation: 30% students’ participation in the seminars with oral presentations; 70% practical assignment.
The Place of Oral History within Historiography
(Introductory lecture, discussion)
The nature of history (meaning and use of history). Social purpose of history.
Oral history as transforming both the content and the purpose of history: changing the focus of history from political to the lives of ordinary people; opening up new areas of inquiry; "democratising" history writing.
"Oral history provides a more realistic and fair reconstruction of the past" (P.Thompson).
The Specific Characteristics of Oral History and the Specific Nature of Oral Sources
The uniqueness, immediacy, authenticity and popular democratic character of oral history as the consequence of the intrinsic nature of the oral approach: it is about individual lives of people of all kinds; it is spoken, not written, etc.
Oral sources: common and different from other historical evidence. Creative and co-operative nature of oral sources.
Problems of interpretation.
The Role of the Researcher
The correspondence of the works based on oral evidence to scholarly standards.
Necessary skills for a historian (being a good listener, understanding human relationships; etc.).
Responsibility of a researcher.
Guidelines for the Interview
Legal concerns (drawing up a deed; interviewees and interviewer rights and responsibilities).
What makes a good interview?
How to Conduct the Interview?
Preparing for the interview (collecting information about the general subject matter and about people to be interviewed; preparing questions).
Setting up and conducting the interview (time, location, contact with interviewees).
What is the best way to conclude an interview?