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National Life Stories: Lives in Steel

Lives in Steel, a fieldwork project in partnership with British Steel, was the first national oral history of the steel industry.

The project was conducted in the main steelmaking areas, past and present, of Teeside, South Wales, Scunthorpe, West Scotland, Sheffield, Corby and Workington. In their own words, steelworkers discuss the skills, hazards and complexity of producing steel. The interviews covered a wide range of topics such as family life, education, tradition and community, while focusing primarily on working experiences within the industry. Interviewees were drawn from a broad spectrum of occupations within the steel industry including those in management, melters, blast-furnacemen, maintenance staff, coke oven operatives, cranedrivers and the full-time and lay officials of unions and steelworker membership, especially the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC). Senior figures include Dai Davies (General Secretary, ISTC), Mike Lahive (Personnel Director, General Steels) and Les Pierson (Industrial Relations Manager, Appleby-Fridingham). Alan Dein conducted 88 interviews.

Lives in Steel, a CD containing edited extracts from the collection was published by the British Library in 1993. For more information please contact the curatorial team at

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)

Media files

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