Paul Oliver Archive of African American Music

Scope and Content

Paul Oliver's research material, books and music collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

Paul Oliver was born in Nottingham in 1927. He was a noted historian of both Architecture and African American music, and wrote several books on both subjects. He grew up in Pinner, North West London and attended Harrow Art School where he began his lifelong interest in African American music.In 1960 he won a grant from the State Department and received financing from the BBC to go to the United States and record Blues Artists. The resulting interviews and photographs from this trip were included in an exhibition at the American embassy in London, as well as providing research for further books. In 1978 he came to Oxford Brookes to join the Architecture department, and continued to research and work in both his fields of interest. He died in Oxfordshire in 2017 at the age of 90.

His publications include a book and LP giving his educational insight into blues, ‘Blues Fell this Morning’; a book containing his interviews from the 1960 American field trip, ‘Conversation with the Blues’; considered to be the first comprehensive history of the genre, ‘ The Story of the Blues’; and a book on the vocal traditions on Race Records, ‘Songsters and Saints’.

Access Information

Before your first visit to the Special Collections Reading Room please complete a Reading Room registration form . The form is also available from the Headington Library Enquiry Desk. Internal staff and students will be asked to show their University ID card, and external applicants should bring proof of address

Applicants are bound by the Reading Room regulations .

The Reading Room is open between 1pm and 5pm, Monday to Friday, during the University semesters (dates available here ) and researchers can visit by prior appointment outside these times; Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. Please email us to arrange a visit or if you have any queries:

Acquisition Information

The majority of the collection was transferred from Paul Oliver's house and some books were transferred from University of Gloucestershire. Further material was donated to the collection via the European Blues Association (the collection owner).

Other Finding Aids

The collection is currently uncatalogued. Please contact if interested in using the collection.