Rob Perks

Rob Perks
Lead Curator, Oral History & Director of National Life Stories
Oral history
Related Offices
Secretary and Trustee of the Oral History Society; editor of Oral History: The Journal of the Oral History Society; Director, Trustee and Company Secretary of National Life Stories.

Dr Rob Perks has been Lead Curator of Oral History at the British Library since 1988, and Director of National Life Stories since 1996. Rob leads the oral history team at the BL and his interests include: oral history, memory and narrative: its development, interpretation and presentation in Britain and around the world; oral history and audio-visual archives: issues of collection, documentation, description, access and presentation; the development of UK local and community history, and representations of personal testimonies in public history contexts; the retrieval of 'hidden' and marginalised histories through oral history methodology; and corporate and business oral history. As a Winston Churchill Fellow he researched nationalism, memory and oral history in Eastern Europe, and has acted as a special historical advisor to the Council of Europe in Romania. He was Co-ordinator of the Millennium Oral History Project, a collaborative initiative between the British Library and BBC Regional Broadcasting, and the largest oral history project ever mounted in Britain.

Rob acts as an advisor to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (formerly HLF), the Centre for Life History Research at the University of Sussex, and the Canadian Oral History Centre at the University of Winnipeg. Currently he co-ordinates the BL’s relationship with the BBC for ‘The Listening Project’ airing four times weekly on BBC Radio 4; and sits on the Project Board for ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’, an ambitious five-year £18.8m project to digitally preserve 100,000 of the nation’s most rare and vulnerable sound recordings, both at the British Library and around the UK, working with a consortium partnership network of ten regional audio preservation centres. He previously served as a Council Member of the International Oral History Association; as a Board Member of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council South East (MLAC-SE), 2002-2007; and was Visiting Professor at the University of Huddersfield, 2008-2011, from where in 2007 he was awarded an honorary DLitt in recognition of his work in the field.



  • 'Corporate and Business Oral History: The Opportunities and Challenges', Godrej Archives Annual Lecture 2016, Mumbai: Godrej Archives, 2017.
  • 'Flagship Entry: Oral History', The Sage Encyclopaedia of Research Methods, Sage, forthcoming (with Al Thomson).
  • Review of The Canadian Oral History Reader, Kristina R Llewellyn, Alexander Freund and Nolan Reilly (editors), Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015, in Oral History, vol.45 no.1 (Spring 2017).
  • 'Curation or Creation? Archivists and Oral History. Rob Perks in conversation with Andrew Flinn', Oral History, vol.41 no.1 (Spring 2013), pp.113-119
  • 'The nation in conversation', Viewfinder, no. 88 (Autumn 2012), pp. 6-7.
  • 'Oral history: a political act? Rob Perks in conversation with Mary Stewart', Testimonios: Revista de la Asociacion de Historia Oral de la Republica Argentina (Argentina, 2011).
  • '‘Messiah with a microphone?’: oral historians, technology and sound archives' in The Oxford Handbook of Oral History, ed. by Donald A Ritchie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), chapter 22.
  • 'The roots of oral history: exploring contrasting attitudes to elite, corporate, and business oral history in Britain and the US', Oral History Review, vol. 37 no. 2 Summer/Fall 2010, pp. 215-224.
  • '‘Corporations are people too!’: business and corporate oral history in Britain', Oral History, vol. 38 no. 1 (Spring 2010), pp. 36-54.
  • 'George Ewart Evans and his legacy to oral history', National Life Stories Review 2009-2010 (NLS, 2010), pp. 12-13.
  • 'The challenges of web access to archival oral history in Britain', International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives Journal, no.32 (January 2009), pp. 74-82.


  • The Oral History Reader, Routledge, third edition 2015, second edition 2006, first edition 1998 (with Al Thomson)
  • Oral History, Health and Welfare, Routledge, 2000 (with Joanna Bornat, Paul Thompson and Jan Walmsley)
  • Ukraine’s Forbidden History, Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1998, (with Graham Smith and Tim Smith)

Audio and electronic publications

  • Oral History Guidance, Heritage Lottery Fund, 2018
  • The Writing Life: Authors’ Lives, British Library, 2011 (CD, with Sarah O’Reilly)

Collection guides

Oral history

One of the largest collections of oral history and life story interviews in the world