Regional Heritage Centre, Department of History Lancaster University
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Elizabeth Roberts' Working Class Oral History Archive

Elizabeth Roberts was a postgraduate student when she undertook her first oral history project, 'Social Life in Barrow and Lancaster, 1890-1925' in the mid-1970s. Later in the same decade, whilst working at Lancaster University, Dr Roberts undertook a second related project, 'Social Life in Preston, 1890-1940'. These archives form one of the most important collections of oral history testimonies collected in the 1970s when oral history was a relatively new form of data collection. They are an important source for the history of working-class life in north-west England. In the 1980s Dr Roberts undertook a third oral history project, working with Dr Lucinda Beier on a project entitled 'Family and Social Life in Barrow, Lancaster and Preston, 1940-1970'. The archives formed the basis for Dr Roberts'ground-breaking work on working-class life in industrial towns, which has been published in various forms, including books and articles.

In total the archive contain 545 tape recordings, questionnaires and transcripts of interviews. The transcripts are all fully indexed by subject and the main indexes can be viewed below:

The following extracts give an indication of the contents of the tapes and transcripts. They are samples of the material used in the lectures given by Dr Elizabeth Roberts to students and local and family history groups. Please note: these extracts are subject to copyright laws and must not be reproduced, in full or in part, unless prior permission has been granted by the Regional Heritage Centre.


Upgrading and digitisation of Elizabeth Roberts’ Working Class Oral History Archive (ongoing)

Elizabeth Roberts’ Working Class Oral History Archive is a unique resource, through which we can hear the voices of people born at the end of the nineteenth century sharing their perspectives on the timeless themes of birth, love, marriage, health, work, family and death.  Preserving this important research for the future, and digitising it to offer much broader access, is a priority for the Centre.

The reel-to-reel tapes were digitised in a project funded by The Research Support Libraries Programme, and the original recordings are now stored at Lancashire Archives as part of their sound collection. With funding from the Lancaster University Friends Programme we have digitised the indexes from the archives – now available on this website (see above).

In November 2014 the Sir John Fisher Foundation offered a challenge grant of £22,500 towards the cost of retyping the fragile transcripts, digitising the collection to make it available on-line, and promoting the archive within the communities in which the original recordings were made. In March 2016 we were able to announce that we had achieved our funding goal, thanks to the support of a range of instutional and individual funders; a new website hosting the transcripts was unveiled in May 2018. Read more here.


How to Access the Archive

Digitised transcripts are available here. Please note that identifying details of the interviewees and people they refer to have been redacted. To access the unredacted versions please email the Regional Heritage Centre or call 01524 593770.

Please note: the archive is available for personal visits, but it can be used by appointment only.

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Elizabeth Roberts' Working Class Oral History Archive Digitisation Project.

We have successfully fundraised to enable the long-term preservation of the archive, and we are now releasing transcripts of the interviews here.


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