The Troubles with a lower case t: undergraduates and Belfast's difficult history

Sean O'Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

This paper explores the risks and rewards involved in directing undergraduate students engaged on an oral history project in Belfast. It advocates the role of oral history as a tool through which to encourage students’ engagement with research-led teaching to produce reflective assignments on the nature of historical evidence, particularly autobiographical memory. The particular challenges of conducting oral history in a city beset by ethno-sectarian divisions are discussed. This factor has ensured that the historiography of Belfast has focused extensively on conflict and violence. The city's social history is poorly understood, but employing oral history enables the exploration of issues that take undergraduate historians beyond the Troubles as a starting point. This project probed what is called the troubles with a lower case t, via an analysis of deindustrialisation and urban redevelopment in Sailortown (Belfast's dockland district). It provided evidence with which to offer a new assessment on existing historiographical discussions about working-class nostalgic memory and urban social change, one that supports those scholars that problematize attempts to categorise such memory. The testimony also differed in significant ways from previous oral history research on post-war Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-239
JournalTransactions of the Royal Historical Society
Volume28
Early online date02 Nov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

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