Our oral history collections cover all aspects of British publishing and include interviews with writers, journalists and publishers.
About the collection
We have many oral history collections covering a cross-section of those involved in all aspects of the British publishing world. Interviewees include those involved in the press and book trade, as well as authors.
What is available online?
- Oral history curator's choice includes a series of edited extracts from interviews with leading British authors. The extracts come from the National Life Stories Authors’ Lives project and were originally published in 2011 as a double CD,The Writing Life: Authors Speak.
- An Oral History of the British Press features thirteen life stories of newspaper journalists, trades unionists, editors and art directors.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?
Authors and illustrators
- Authors' Lives is an ongoing National Life Stories project that contains in-depth interviews with Britain’s leading authors, poets and writers, together with technical and specialist writers, campaigners and literary journalists. The interviews encompass memories of childhood, family background, education, and working life, and address key shifts in authorship over the past 50 years. It includes interviews with Man Booker prize short-listed authors.
- Children's Book Illustrators: 'Magic Pencil' comprises a series of interviews with illustrators of children’s books, which accompanied an exhibition at the British Library and Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle in 2002-2003.
- The David Gerard Collection comprises a broad-ranging series of oral history interviews with people in and around Nottingham, including a series of interviews with people that knew D.H. Lawrence including his brother George, school friends, neighbours and teachers from Eastwood, boyhood friends, Rebecca West and Compton Mackenzie. The collection also includes Stanley Middleton, John Braine, Alan Sillitoe, Madge Hales (poet), Stan Barstow, and Hilda Lewis.
- Book Trade Lives features 118 in-depth interviews with those who worked in publishing and bookselling between the 1920s and 2007. Sue Bradley's The British Book Trade: An Oral History (BL, 2008) is based on the interviews.
- Talking Print: Oral History of the Book Trade comprises two interviews with former printers at Cambridge University Press (CUP).
- The Women in Publishing project captures the memories of members of this radical campaigning group from its inception in 1979 to circa 2000, covering its formative and most ground-breaking years.
Journalism and the press
- An Oral History of the British Press features the life stories of newspaper journalists, editors and art directors. Thirteen of the twenty interviews are available at British Library Sounds; most of the rest of the collection is available in the British Library Reading Rooms.
- The journalist Phyllis Deakin is included in the Fawcett collection which focuses on the lives of pioneering career women.
- Interviewer Sarah O'Reilly discusses The Writing Life: Authors Speak in a British Library podcast
- Philip Hensher, Hilary Spurling and Michael Frayn - in conversation with Deborah Moggach at the launch of The Writing Life: Authors Speak
- Howard Jacobson reflects on his recording for Authors’ Lives with Alex Clark.