Country stories: the use of oral histories of the countryside to challenge the sciences of the past and future
University of Exeter (David Harvey)
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
Maney Publishing on behalf of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining
In the context of recent media, governmental, academic and popular attention and enthusiasm for debates surrounding the construction and meaning of the British countryside, this paper outlines the potential for oral history to make a contribution. Drawing on work in Devon, UK, we outline how an oral history methodology can engage with the fields of archaeological science and heritage management of landscape resources from the past, before outlining how such lay narratives may also inform present policies for the landscapes of the future. On the one hand we note the potential of oral histories for animating existing scientific narratives of landscape development. Moving from a position of scientific complicity towards one of critical engagement, we then go on to argue that oral histories may also challenge the authority of scientific knowledge, serving to destabilise existing assumptions, and offering in their stead more complex, meaningful and community-led narratives of landscape.
This paper has been drawn from research funded through a UK Arts and Humanities Research Board ‘Innovation Award’.
Reproduced with permission of the publisher. © 2005 Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 30 (1), 2005, pp. 19-32.