Oral histories of religion and belief

Lord Donald Soper being interviewed by his grandaughter.
Lord Donald Soper being interviewed by his grandaughter. Image courtesy of Grace Robertson/British Library

We hold key oral history collections that explore the theme of religious belief and practice.

About the collection

Issues of religion and belief feature in many of our life story recordings, particularly in interviews that offer surveys of British life, as well as deal specifically with ethnicity and migration.

We also have collections relating to Jewish experience.

What is available online?

  • The Listening Project has many recordings of one-to-one conversations between friends or relatives on the subjects of religion and belief. Each conversation lasts up to an hour and was recorded by the BBC.
  • Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum is a collaboration between National Life Stories at the British Library, York University, Toronto and the Centre for Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society, Newman University, Birmingham. It is a multidisciplinary research project funded by the Templeton Religion Trust investigating the social and cultural contexts of public perceptions of relations between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ across all faiths and none. Fifteen of the project interviews are available online at BL Sounds.
  • This research toolkit and user journey offers practical suggestions for finding ‘difficult to find’ material in archived interview collections. Written by Paul Merchant as part of a collaboration between National Life Stories and the Understanding Unbelief programme at the University of Kent. The toolkit provides useful tips for searching the Sound and Moving Image catalogue and for working with oral history interview content summaries.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

  • The Methodist Sound Archive 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 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, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Africa, China and the West Indies.
  • The World Methodist Peace Conference collection are recordings of speeches delivered by nine dignitaries and activists at the conference held in London in 1985.
  • Nuns' Lives includes interviews with three retired teaching nuns, conducted in 1998 as part of a research project.
  • The Millennium Memory Bank. Recordings derived from a joint BBC and British Library project The Century Speaks: Millennium Oral History Project. One of the project themes was 'Beliefs and Fears' which asked people about their religious experience.

What is available in other organisations?