First-Hand Experience of War

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11170

"You had to be there!" That really is the best way to understand an event. The next best way is to hear from someone who experienced the event. Listen to, and learn to record, oral history archives!



learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • What do you think would be more powerful — to read about the Holocaust in a book or to speak to someone who survived the Holocaust?

The experience of history is exactly that: an experience — one that is felt, remembered, and best interpreted by people who lived it.

Historians often look for the hard facts: the physical objects, the artifacts, and the texts that form the traces of historical events.

Another key form of evidence historians gather is qualitative evidence — the evidence that comes from human experiences. Oral histories are a form of qualitative evidence.

An oral history is a recording of an interview with a person who experienced an historical moment. It could be the experience of a specific moment, like the airlift of victims from a war zone, or it could be something broader and less intense, like the experience of video arcades in the mid-1980s.

  • How do researchers collect oral histories?

Using this Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History, write down the most important points.

  • If you were to boil the process of recording an oral history down to less than ten steps, what would they be?

Then, reflect on these questions.

  • What are oral histories used for? Where do we commonly see or hear them?
  • Why is preparation such an important part of collecting oral histories?
  • What experiences do you think are worthy of being preserved in an oral history?

Conflict is a special area of human experience; few other experiences are as important, and few are as intense. The great value in listening to other people's experiences is that we gain from their wisdom and learn important lessons about the world, about humanity, and about ourselves.

Continue on to the Got It? section to hear some first-hand accounts of wartime experiences.

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