The Use of Oral Sources Essay

The Use of Oral Sources Essay

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I, like many others, learnt about the history of my family through chatting with those who remembered them, hearing the stories of the good old days, and discovering the significant events that shaped my families’ lives. I caught the gossip and even learnt the songs they sang as they shared in jollification and other family customs, all from the memories of those who were there. This provided answers, gave me a sense of belonging and anecdotes I can pass down for generations. Family history gives a strong sense of a much longer lifespan and will survive beyond death. Oral history can be defined as a systematic process by which an individual’s memories or eyewitness accounts of the past are collected and the process recorded and analyzed to provide answers or incite for questions written sources left unanswered. Records have shown that the use of oral evidence dates back as far as Herodotus who was considered the father of history. It showed that he relied a great deal on eyewitness accounts to tell the stories of the Peloponnesian war, and before the art of writing became the norm, even when written evidence was available, historians also relied on witnesses’ accounts to help them reconstruct the past and enhance the written records (Ritchie) . The use of Oral history experienced a resurgence when it was made easier by the invention of recording equipment. The use of oral sources continues to be a legitimate informant of historical evidence, providing eyewitness accounts, and valuable insight enhancing the formal written records.
In opposition to the 'History from Above' promoted by historians like Leopold von Ranke, who concentrated solely on writing the stories of political, social, and religious elites, Histo...

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...istory plays an integral role in documenting history accurately and can be relied upon. Therefore, it raises questions about the nepotism of historian who criticises the reliability of oral evidence when it is derived from the same principles as written history.

Works Cited

Commager, Henry, Steele. History. Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1980.
Ritchie, Donald A. Doing Oral History. New York, Ny: Twayne's Publishers, 1995.
Seldon, Anthony and Joanna Pappworth. By Word of Mouth E`lite oral Histroy. New York: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1983.
Sitton, Thad, George L Mehaffy and L JR Davis O. Oral History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983.
Thompson, Paul. The Voice Of The Past; Oral History; 3 edition. New York: Oxford University Press Inc, 2000.
Vansina, Jan. Oral Tradition As History. Great Britan : James Currey Ltd, 1985.

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