Oral histories of writing and publishing

John and Maureen Prime's bookshop, King's Lynn
John and Maureen Prime's bookshop, King's Lynn, showing John and daughter Isobel c.1970. Image courtesy of John Prime and Maureen Condon.

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?

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