// noun // the collection, interpretation, and study of historical information using sound recordings of interviews with people having personal knowledge of past events.
How do historians use it?
For the historian, oral history interviews are valuable as sources of new knowledge and new points of view about the past. Interviews provide information about everyday life and insights into the mentalities of what are sometimes termed "ordinary people" that are simply unavailable from more traditional sources. Oral histories also give a voice to individuals who are often ignored by society and history alike.
Why create oral history? Oral history has the power to make history complicated. There is a saying that history is written by the victors. This means that the strongest individuals (the rich, the powerful, the winners of wars) tend to be the people who control what is written down and put in textbooks. Oral history is a way of fighting back against this unfair way of creating history. Oral history allows for individuals to tell about the ways they have lived their lives.
What are some problems with oral history? As with any source, historians must use good judgment when using interviews--just because someone says something is true, doesn't mean it is true. Just because someone witnessed an event doesn't mean they fully understand the event.
Historians must think about the interviewee's point of view and their biases. Who is talking? Race, age, ethnicity, gender, class, and other factors all influence what a narrator remembers about an event.