Same Interviewee, Different Interviewer: Researching Intersubjectivity in Studies of the Reserved Occupations in the Second World War

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Abstract

In 2008 and 2009, Arthur McIvor, director of the Scottish Oral History Centre at the University of Strathclyde, interviewed two men who were employed in reserved occupations in the Clydeside region of Scotland during the Second World War. In 2010, I reinterviewed the same two men as part of my PhD project exploring the wartime experiences of men in reserved occupations in the Clydeside area. The two interviewees were Henry (Harry) McGregor, born in 1922 in Glasgow, who worked as an engineer in wartime; and William (Willie) Dewar, born in 1924, also in Glasgow, and employed as a draughtsman in Hyde Park Railway Works in the Springburn area of the city during the war for the North British Locomotive Company. I thus found myself with a rare opportunity to compare the two sets of interviews, which had a common focus on the impact on masculinity of working in a reserved occupation. Little has been written on what happens when the same interviewees are revisited by different interviewers asking questions about the same subject area. This article briefly outlines the background of the reserved occupations before focusing on composure and relation of the reserved occupation war experience. I consider the literature on the popular memory of the Second World War in Britain and the extent to which the interviewees might have felt “prepared” for their interviews with me. The article offers a new and fascinating insight into the nature and practice of oral history, enabling a closer look at interactions among various factors at play, including memory, composure, and intersubjectivity, and how interviewees narrate their stories in the context of Second World War Britain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalOral History Review
Volume48
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Clydeside
  • composure
  • intersubjectivity
  • reserved occupations
  • Scotland
  • Second World War

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