Practicing Oral History to Improve Public Policies and Programs: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Practicing Oral History to Improve Public Policies and Programs

1st Edition

By Marella Hoffman


148 pages

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pub: 2017-09-19
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The use of contemporary oral history to improve public policies and programs is a growing, transdisciplinary practice. Indispensable for students and practitioners, Practicing Oral History to Improve Public Policies and Programs is the first book to define the practice, explain how policy-makers use it, show how it relates to other types of oral history, and provide guidance on the ethics and legalities involved.

Packed with case studies from disciplines as diverse as medicine, agriculture, and race relations, as well as many examples from the author’s own work, this book provides an essential overview of the current state of the field within oral history for public policy and a complete methodology for the process of designing and implementing an oral history project. The comprehensive How To section demonstrates how to use the practice to advance the reader’s career, their chosen discipline and the public interest, whether their field is in oral history or in public policy.

This book is an important resource for oral historians, fledgling or experienced, who are keen to find new applications and funding for their work, as well as for professionals in the public and not-for-profit sectors who want to learn to use oral history to improve their own policies and programs.


"This accessible and practical handbook shows how first-hand testimony can be used to influence and impact public policy in a host of settings, from climate change to food policy to local planning."

Rob Perks, Lead Curator of Oral History, British Library

Table of Contents

List of Figures. Foreword. Acknowledgments. Part I - Why Do It? 1. Let Them Tell You What Will Work - How Oral History Can Improve Public Policies and Programs 2. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants - Oral History as a Field 3. Case Studies Where Oral History Has Improved Policies and Programs, Locally and Globally Part II - Doing Your Own Oral History to Improve a Policy or Program - The Step-by-Step Guide 4. Your Own Oral History Project to Improve a Public Policy or Program - Planning It Stategically 5. Planning the Logistics of Your Oral History Project 6. Doing Your Oral History Interviews 7. Using Your Oral Histories to Influence the Policy or Program Part III - Twenty-First Century Solutions 8. Twenty-First-Century Solutions - Oral History as a Resource for Meeting the Complex Policy Challenges Ahead. Appendices. Some Key Concepts in This Book. Index.

About the Author


Marella Hoffman is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and has lectured or held research awards at universities in France, Switzerland, Ireland, the US, and at Cambridge University. She was for a decade chief editor of a public policy magazine for government in Cambridge. Her other books are Asylum under Dreaming Spires: Refugees’ Lives in Cambridge Today (2017); Savoir-Faire of the Elders in the French Mediterranean Hills (in French, 2016); and Magnets (2007). Her work also appears in international collaborations Human Rights and Good Governance: Building Bridges (2000); Location and Dislocation in Contemporary Irish Society: Emigration and Irish Identities (1997); and Cross-currents in European Literature (1993). Visit

About the Series

Practicing Oral History

Oral history offers tremendous opportunities for interpreting the past and the increasingly complex present through the words of those who have lived it. The recorded interview, along with careful planning, solid background research, and archiving, form the basis of oral history methodology. Practitioners in public history, cultural heritage, library science, education, documentary, community activism, and local history groups wish to incorporate oral histories into their own work, and they need a road map for doing so.

The 'Practicing Oral History' series fills this gap. Titles consist of concise, instructive books that address the special circumstances of oral history within a specific user community. Each title provides practical tools for conducting and presenting an oral history project that interprets the best practices and ethical considerations of a particular context.

Ideas and proposals for new titles are welcome. Send queries to series editor Nancy MacKay, [email protected]

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Historiography
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General