An Oral History of the Electricity Supply Industry in the UK will contribute to National Life Stories' documentation of the utilities in the UK, by collecting the memories and experiences of those who worked in the industry at various levels and exploring themes such as nationalisation in the 1940s, privatisation in 1990-5, the increase in scale of coal-fired power stations, the shift to gas during the 1990s and the development of renewable energy sources since the 1970s.
Further information about An Oral History of the Electricity Industry in the UK can be found in the scoping study.
The project aims to uncover the following key historical themes:
- Nationalisation of the electricity industry on 1 April 1948: merging 625 electricity companies and establishing the Central Electricity Authority, later the Central Electricity Generating Board (1957)
- The opening of the first commercial nuclear power station at Calder Hall, 1956
- George Brown’s National Plan, 1965, which led to surplus generating capacity
- The impact of the 1974 Miners’ Strike and the power shut-downs of the three-day week
- The Plowden Report of 1976 recommending reorganisation is rejected by government
- The Flowers Report on environmental pollution and radioactive waste in 1976 advises against expanding nuclear power and leads to formation of Nirex
- The impact of the oil crisis of 1978-80
- The Sizewell B PWR nuclear station public enquiry, 1982-5
- The 1984 Miners’ Strike
- Privatisation of the industry from 1990: the division of the CEGB into National Power and PowerGen; the privatisation of the 12 area electricity boards
- Privatisation of Nuclear Electric and the flotation on the Stock Exchange of National Grid in 1995
- House of Lords report in March 1999 on the management of nuclear waste
- Changing ownership of the key electricity supply companies
- Involvement of UK electricity sector in post-Communist bloc and developing countries
- Shifting government policy on renewables and alternative energy sources
- Sir John Baker
- Professor Leslie Hannah
- Dr Sally Horrocks
- David Jefferies
- Professor Stephen Littlechild
- Hodson Thornber
- Luda Thornber
We are grateful to Hodson and Luda Thornber for their generous support.
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.
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7405 (Rob Perks, Oral History Curator / Director of National Life Stories)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7406 (Mary Stewart, Oral History Curator / Deputy Director of National Life Stories)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7404 (Elspeth Millar, Oral History Archive Assistant)