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Oral history: medicine and health professionals

The British Library Oral History section holds collections covering many aspects of the history of medicine and medical professionals, including interviews with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and physiotherapists.

Doctors

  • The Wellcome Trust Oral History of General Practice 1935-52 (catalogue no: C648) is a series of life story/career interviews carried out by Michael Bevan for a Wellcome Trust-funded project based at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at Oxford University between 1992 and 1994.
  • Oral History of Geriatrics as a Medical Speciality (catalogue no: C512) is a collection comprised of 73 interviews carried out by Margot Jefferys and colleagues with geriatricians discussing the evolution of geriatric medicine as a medical specialty after the Second World War.
  • The Overseas Trained South Asian Geriatricians interviews (catalogue no: C1356) is a collection comprising the interviews from an ESRC funded research project 'Overseas Trained South Asian Doctors and the Development of Geriatric Medicine', which interviewed working and retired South Asian geriatricians in order to explore their experiences and contribution to the development of the care of older people in the UK. The research project reanalysed the 'Oral History of Geriatrics as a Medical Speciality' collection (see above).
  • Wellcome Trust History of Medicine Course Oral History interviews (catalogue no: C646) contain interviews conducted by those attending Wellcome Trust courses on oral history and the history medicine since 1990.
  • An interview with leukaemia specialist George McDonald is included in National Life Story Collection: General Interviews (catalogue no: C464). An interview with obstetrician and gynaecologist Josephine Barnes is included in the Leaders of National Life (C408).

Nursing

  • The Andy Stevens Psychiatric Nursing Interviews (catalogue no: C823) were recorded as part of a doctorate focussing on an Essex psychiatric hospital, Essex Hall/Turner Village. Most interviewees are former employees (mainly nurses but also a psychiatrist), the oldest born in 1906.
  • Royal College of Nursing History Group interviews (catalogue no: C545) is a collection of 35 interviews with nurses from World War One onwards talking about their nursing careers and experiences.
  • The Hallam Nursing interviews (catalogue no: C768) document the arrival of women that came from Barbados to Britain to train as nurses in the 1950s.
  • The Kay Foster Gulf War recordings (catalogue no: C752) are the audio diaries of a major in the Royal Army Nursing Corps serving in the Gulf War 1990-1.

Pharmacy

  • Two collections conducted by Stuart Anderson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine focus on pharmacy: an Oral History of Hospital Pharmacy (catalogue no: C917) is a series of 50 interviews with community pharmacists and chemists, whilst an Oral History of Community Pharmacy (catalogue no: C816) comprises 50 interviews with community pharmacists and chemists.
  • Other pharmacy collections include the John Hunt pharmacists interviews (catalogue no: C989), a collection of 13 interviews made with doctors, patients and pharmacists, conducted by John Hunt, archive interviewer for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

Mental Health professionals

  • Pioneers of Child Psychotherapy Recordings (catalogue no: C1560) is a collection comprised of 22 interviews with founding members of the child psychotherapy movement in post–war Britain. Interviews for the project were carried out between 2000-2003 by Professor Michael Roper and Dr Andrew Briggs. The recordings document the development of child psychotherapy training and practice in the 1950s and 1960s. Principal subjects include: training and training-schools, the Tavistock Clinic and Anna Freud Institute; relations between Kleinians and Freudians; institutional development in Child Psychotherapy, the establishment of the Association  of Child Psychotherapy; clinical techniques; NHS and widening public access to psychotherapy.
  • An Oral History of Talking Therapists in the UK (catalogue no: C1553) is a collection of six life story interviews with key figures in the world of talking therapies. The interviews explored both the personal biographies of the interviewees and a wide range of themes including training, the day-to-day processes of therapeutic practice, ethical issues in the sector, the differences between NHS and private practice, and the future of the talking therapies.  A future project will aim to interview a wide range of professionals who do not use pharmaceutical or other medical forms of intervention to alleviate mental distress but depend on verbal exchanges between client and therapist.
  • Interviews with psychiatrists are included in the Wellcome Trust Course Oral History Interviews (catalogue no: C646) collection and the Andy Stevens Psychiatric Nursing Interviews (catalogue no: C823)
  • An interview with Anthony Storr, English psychiatrist and author, is also included in the Leaders of National Life (C408) collection.
  • Interviews relating to psychiatry can also be found in the Mental Health Testimony Archive (catalogue no: C905).

Related recordings

  • The Health Libraries Group Oral History Project (catalogue no: C1108) is a collection of interviews with members of the Health Libraries Group, a forum for all members of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) including librarians and information workers in the NHS, voluntary organisations, public libraries, universities, colleges and industry.
  • Physiotherapist interviews (C601) were recorded for a Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Oral History Project undertaken between July 1992 and August 1993 as part of its Centenary celebrations.
  • For collections giving the patients' perspective, see personal health, mental health and disability
  • For more information on collections relating to medical science, see science and technology.
  • For collections relating to reproductive health, see sexuality, reproductive health and prostitution.

Accessing the collections

To access oral history material:

  • Search for oral history recordings held at the British Library using the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue (see useful advice on searching the oral history collections).
  • Onsite access to oral history recordings: The Listening and Viewing Service in St Pancras provides free public access to the oral history collections on an appointment basis. Many digital recordings are also available via SoundServer, a computerised listening facility located in the Humanities Reading Rooms.  SoundServer is also available at the British Library’s site in Boston Spa in Yorkshire.
  • Internet access to selected oral history recordings: The British Library Sounds website gives remote access to a selection of interviews from the Library’s oral history collections. Some recordings are currently only licensed to Higher and Further Education users in the UK, others are available for full public access.

Further information

Contact us

Oral History
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

T +44 (0)20 7412 7405 (Rob Perks, Lead Curator, Oral History  / Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7406 (Mary Stewart, Curator, Oral History / Deputy Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7404 (Elspeth Millar, Archivist, Oral History)
E oralhistory@bl.uk