Oral History in the History of Psychiatry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter considers the value and potential benefits of using oral history for the history of psychiatry and mental health. Its aim is to provide a theoretical, technical and ethical framework, as an entry point to a broad and diverse field. It discusses the research opportunities that engaging directly with personal experience, memories and stories offer, as well as the challenges that may be encountered. For example, questions of subjectivity, power and trauma must be acknowledged and negotiated. Although oral history is now a well-established technique, best practice continues to develop in light of changing understandings of trust, sensitivity and the position of the researcher. As oral historian Michael Frisch has said “the central issues in oral history are confronted first and most deeply in practical application,” which is why the chapter discusses practical and technical as well as ethical issues. Interviewee recruitment, transcription and analysis need to be carefully considered in oral history research design. The chapter concludes by reflecting on the therapeutic significance of oral history for people who have been marginalised within medical and psychiatric systems and by society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSources in the History of Psychiatry, from 1800 to the Present
ISBN (Print)9780367541217
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

Cite this