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National Life Stories: Legal Lives

National Life Stories projects encompass interviews with a wide range of those involved in the legal and criminal justice system including the lawyers, barristers, judges and crown court clerks.

Legal Lives (catalogue no: C736) is a National Life Stories project which comprises interviews with lawyers, solicitors and barristers with the aim to document changes in the legal profession in Britain. Interviewees include Lord Bridge and Peter Goldsmith (former Attorney General of England and Wales), Lady Hale (the first female Law Lord) and barrister Sir Sydney Kentridge QC. National Life Stories is currently fundraising to continue this project.

The Changing face of local justice: Exploring the social world of Crown Court clerks from the 1970s onwards is a collaborative doctoral research project with National Life Stories (NLS) and the LSE’s Legal Biography Project (LBP) which will serve to create an archive at the British Library of life stories of Crown Court clerks. Though Crown Court clerks play a pivotal role in regional trials of the most serious criminal offences such as murder, rape and burglary, little has been written about them to date. In-depth life story interviews will be conducted to gain insight into clerks’ lives, the lived world of the legal system, shifts in local legal cultures and changes in the way that regional justice has been conceived of and experienced. A particular focus of the research will be to explore the changing nature of the criminal justice system during the 1970s and onwards, specifically the transition from the Assize system, which had its origins in the early medieval period, and was staffed by itinerant judges from London, to the modern system of Crown Courts with resident judges. The research will be carried out by PhD student Dvora Liberman, supervised by NLS director Dr Rob Perks, and co-director of LSE’s LBP Professor Linda Mulcahy.

Accessing the collection

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)