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Voices from half a century: the University of York's Oral History project

Oral History

In 2013, as the University of York celebrates its 50th anniversary, an oral history project has captured the memories and opinions of 50 people who have played a part in the University's first half century.

This resource, archived by the Borthwick Institute for Archives - repository for much of York's historical documents and other artefacts - allows visitors to hear the voices of those who helped build York into one of the world’s most successful new universities.

Interviews & transcripts

The audio files and transcripts have been archived with the University Archive within the Borthwick Institute where they are being preserved for the long term. Read the transcripts and listen to the recordings from the Oral History project:

The catalogue lists the interviews, their length and gives summaries of the topics covered and provides links to the edited transcripts and streamed audio.

The interviews

Interviewees range from Sir Donald Barron, last survivor from the Trust set up in the 1950s to campaign for York to have its own university, to Sam Asfahani, who capped his student career by carrying the Olympic flame through the city on its way to the 2012 London Games.

Other interviewees include some of the first students, tutors and administrative staff, whose recollections vividly evoke the excitement and vision of the University's early days.

The project

Professor Brian Cantor, Vice Chancellor of the University, decided that an oral history would be an appropriate way to mark York's half century and to create a lasting legacy of the occasion.  

The project commenced in 2012 and was supervised by a working group chaired by the historian Professor Mark Ormrod, Academic Coordinator for the Humanities, and Hilary Layton, Director of Internationalisation.

The interviews have been conducted by Greg Neale, Founding Editor of BBC History Magazine and an honorary Visiting Fellow at the University.

Interviews were complete by the first half of 2013. Student volunteers from the Department of History have also worked on the project, which has in turn inspired a series of short films made by students in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television.

Further information about the Oral history project can be found on the University of York's 50th Anniversary web pages.

The future

We hope to continue to add new interviews to the oral history project in future years, creating a lively, growing collection of voices that help recall and understand York's continuing story.

It should be both a valuable resource for future historians, as well as new generations of alumni.

Some of the participants: Sue Mendus, Richard Shepherd, Elizabeth Heaps, Peter Glanville, Jane Grenville, David Jenkins and Andrew Webster