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New Left Review I/129, September-October 1981


Ronald Fraser

Reconsidering the Spanish Civil War

As oral history broadens its field of study, and in particular as it moves into the field of political history, it cannot elude the task, bounden on materialist historiography, of providing a causal knowledge of the processes it is studying. At first sight this may not seem obvious. Oral history, after all, attempts to articulate lived experiences—the experiences, I would say, of those who, historically speaking, are inarticulate. In other words, of ‘ordinary’ people and by that I mean no more than the people whom traditional historiography passes over in silence because they have left no written record or have not even figured in any record—and who are now restored to a place in the history they have contributed to making. As such, it seems as though the main concern is ‘subjective’; and at one level this is true. The lived experience is the primary source and must, I believe, have an indisputable primacy in the finished work. For oral history is a method of researching and writing people’s history—a history which should be returned, through recognizable experiences of it, to the people who made it so that they are not once again excluded from their own history.

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