British in India Oral Archive Project

Scope and Content

Sixty-one oral history interviews recorded for the British in India Oral Archive Project, 1975-1976. Comprises sound recordings on audio cassette and accompanying transcripts. Interviewees include British and Indian individuals, political figures, such as Earl Mountbatten of Burma, B. K. Nehru, Sir Ronald Brockman, and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay ; along with civil servants, army officers, businesspeople, missionaries, and clerks. Interviews cover the pre-Independence and post-Independence periods, and include discussions on the role of the Viceroy, the royal family, missionary work, the police force, the Indian Civil Service in Burma, trade and shipping in Calcutta, the Japanese invasion, and the Nehru family.

Administrative / Biographical History

The British in India Oral Archive Committee, based at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, undertook 'The British in India Oral Archive Project' (1975-1976). The project aimed to record the memories of those individuals who lived or served in India during the last years of British Rule. It followed the oral history work begun for the BBC Radio 4 series 'Plain Tales from the Raj' (1974). The British in India Oral Archive Project was a joint initiative of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS); British Institute of Recorded Sound [later British Library National Sound Archive]; and the India Office Library & Records [later part of British Library Asia Pacific & Africa Collections]. The project was supported by grants from the Social Science Research Council and Inchcape Trust.

The oral history interviews for the British in India Oral Archive Project were carried out by the historian Charles Allen, and were recorded in India and Pakistan between December 1975 and February 1976, and in Britain between September 1975 and October 1976. Subsequently typewritten transcripts of the audio recordings were prepared, and in many cases the transcript was corrected by the interviewee and a further corrected version was typed.


Interviews are arranged alphabetically by name of interviewee.

Access Information

Currently only transcripts of interviews are available to consult at SOAS Library. Researchers can access copies of the sound recordings at the British Library Listening & Viewing Service. For more details see or contact / 020 7412 7418.

Restrictions Apply

Acquisition Information

Donated by the British in India Oral Archive Committee.

Alternative Form Available

Copy of interviews are available at British Library Listening & Viewing Service [Reference C5].

Conditions Governing Use

Private study only. For publication or broadcast please refer to Archivist.

Related Material

SOAS Library holds 'Plain Tales from the Raj' collection [ref. OA1], containing seventy-five oral history interviews recorded by the BBC for the radio series 'Plain Tales from the Raj' (1974), covering experiences of the British and Indian individuals who lived in India during the period of British colonial rule.

SOAS Library also holds 'India: A People Partitioned' collection [ref. OA3]. 205 oral history interview recordings conducted for the BBC radio series 'India: A People Partitioned', first broadcast in 1997. The interviews document the social history of the Partition of India and its effect on people across South Asia. Interviewees include prominent political and cultural figures in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but the majority of the interviews are with 'ordinary' people of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu heritage whose lives were affected by the events surrounding Independence and the Partition of India in 1947.

SOAS Library also holds 'Memories of the British in India' collection [ref. OA4]. Twenty-eight oral history interviews with British individuals who lived in India during British rule, conducted by the British Libray; India Office Library & Records division.