Click here to skip to content

Oral history: religion

The British Library Sound Archive holds a number of collections that record people's experiences of religion and belief in Britain today.

  • The sound archive holds a number of collections regarding the Methodist Church. The Methodist Sound Archive (catalogue no: C10) is a collection born out of concern by the Methodist Church to preserve recorded reminiscences of individual Methodist ministers, lay office holders and ordinary members of extraordinary events within the life of the Methodist Church. The Methodist Church Oral Archive (catalogue no: C640) is a series of oral history interviews with former and current missionaries of the Methodist Church's Overseas Division (formerly known as the Methodist Missionary Society) covering missionary activity in many parts of the world including India, Ceylon, Africa, China and the West Indies. The World Methodist Peace Conference collection (catalogue no: C1277) are recordings of speeches delivered by nine dignitaries and activists at the conference held in London in 1985.
  • Issues of religion and belief are also a main feature of the Millennium Memory Bank (C900) recordings. The recordings in the Millennium Memory Bank derived from the joint BBC and British Library project The Century Speaks: Millennium Oral History Project. This is one of the largest collections of oral history interviews ever to have been assembled - a unique and invaluable snapshot of how the British think of themselves and their past from the perspective of the beginning of a new millennium. One of the project themes was 'Beliefs and Fears' which asked people about their religious experience.
  • Nuns' Lives (catalogue no: C899) includes interviews with three retired teaching nuns, conducted in 1998 as part of a research project.
  • Issues of religion and belief will arise in almost all oral history interviews. To search the oral history collections visit the British Library Sound Archive catalogue.

Related recordings

  • There are also many local and community oral history projects which explore ethnicity, migration, refugee experiences and religion; for more information visit the Oral History Society's 'Regional Networks' and 'Resources' pages.
  • Issues of religion and belief will feature in many life story recordings, particularly in those that offer surveys of British life; for more information see major national oral history projects and surveys.
  • Issues of religion and beliefs will often overlap with issues of ethnicity and migration; for relating collections, see ethnicity and post-colonialism
  • For collections specifically relating to Judaism and the Jewish experience, see Jewish experience in Britain and Holocaust Testimonies.

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
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)

External links

The Oral History Society