Real world and cutting edge – our students’ oral history research projects

Grow your confidence to meet with interviewees, engage with communities, explore memories and touch the past in the present to write histories for the future.

Here are some examples of the exciting and original work our students have done.

Military history

Joe Dyer 

  • As part of MA History, 2020.
  • Interview with Chloe Griffith ‘My childhood growing up on British overseas Royal Air Force bases’.

“Oral history has given me the opportunity to meet people and discuss their stories. The lives of real people are what oral history concerns, there’s a human element that emphasises the creation of compelling narratives through the engagement of interviewer and interviewee. This is the case in my interview with Chloe Griffin, who spoke about her experiences growing up whilst her dad was away for extended periods of time with the RAF. This section of the interview details one of her favourite memories, the time her dad arrived home early.”

Harry Mundy and Kira Pittuck

  • As part of their BA (Hons) History programme, 2nd year (2019-2020)
  • Interview with Lt. Ian Whitehouse, former submariner with the British Royal Navy Submarine Fleet


For their HIST522 (Talking History, Seeing History - Oral History and Visual History) core 2nd year module, Harry Mundy and Kira Pittuck teamed up to meet with 'Lt. Ian Whitehouse, former Navigator and Watch Leader on the HMS Spartan. This fascinating interview explores in detail how Lt. Whitehouse grew his career as a submariner, first assigned to diesel submarines, and later advancing to nuclear submarines. In the clip, he describes one of his first encounters with a Soviet fleet during the Cold War. Lt. Whitehouse is now actively involved in the preservation of another of the British Royal Navy's fleet, the HMS Courageous housed in Devonport.

History of organisations; public policy; occupations

Nick Giles

  • As part of BA Hons History 3rd year final dissertation, 2019. 
  • Interview with Captain Martin Lucas (Guernsey Fire and Rescue Service) on high-risk firefighting.

“Choosing to use oral history allowed me to research and create a very personalised dissertation in which I was able to utilise my own previous life experiences. Martin, my interviewee, is a friend and former colleague, he is now a senior officer in the Guernsey Fire and Rescue Service and we previously served together on front line duties. The interview was conducted in October 2018, and Martin and I had not seen one another since the end of 2009; however, the fact that we knew one another and used to work together made conducting this interview easy and enjoyable.”

History of Northern Ireland; history of discrimination

Amy Knight and Alaina Daborn

  • As part of BA Hons History 2nd year Oral History Module, 2020.
  • Interview with Mrs Nora Watson, about growing up in Northern Ireland.

“This is the interview I conducted with Nora Watson, which focuses on her life in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Prior to conducting this interview I had no interest in oral history, but I now understand that recording the experiences of 'ordinary' people can make an extraordinary contribution to how we understand the events of the past. Being given this opportunity by the University of Plymouth has not only allowed me to explore an area of interest at a deeper level, but also helped me appreciate the amount of work that goes into recording oral histories.”

British Paraswimming 

Ellen Ratcliffe

  • As part of BA (History) Dissertation
  • Interview with Val Simmonds, mother of Ellie Simmonds, British Paralympic gold medalist. 

Ellie Simmonds and Ellen Ratcliffe

For her 3rd year BA (Hons) History final dissertation, Ellen Ratcliffe explored the history of British Paraswimming, working with some of the most influential figures in the sport’s development from the 1980s to 2012. One of the individuals she met was Val Simmonds, mother of Ellie Simmonds, who competed for TeamGB, bringing home multiple gold medals, as well as silver and bronze, from the Beijing (2008), London (2012), and Rio (2016) Paralympics. In this extract, Val reflects on her daughter’s Beijing victory, how it was only later that she realised the global impact of her daughter’s achievement, and the ecstatic reaction of crowd when Ellie made her entrance at the London 2012 Paralympics.