About Us

The Oral History Unit & Collective at Newcastle University was launched in January 2018. Working across diverse academic disciplines, from creative arts to medicine, and in partnership with local history groups and community historians, our work explores the role of oral history in communicating the past in the present.

We Made Ships is a project of the Newcastle University Oral HIstory Unit & Collective, funded by the Catherine Cookson Foundation.The Oral History Unit & Collective

Through our "Work and After" research theme, we uncovered a wealth of local history projects about shipbuilding, which share information online but through multiple small resources which are not always easy to locate. This website aims to bring that wealth of projects and resources together in an easily accessible, interactive site.

We Made Ships was designed in consultation with secondary teaching staff, in response to current curriculum demands and learning styles, in order to make it as useful in real terms to schools as possible. It is designed to be of use for students, teachers and local historians. As we conduct more oral history interviews with former shipyard workers and local shipbuilding communities, we will add them to the site, and we invite you to join us in building up the archive of this important history. 

The name of this site is taken from a book and film by Tom PickardWe Make Ships, which were produced after a writing residency at the Austin & Pickersgill shipyard in Sunderland in 1987/8.  

What is Oral History?

Oral history is created when people relay memories and experiences of a particular time or event through spoken word. The advantages of oral history is that testimony is first hand from the people who were there, as interviewees talk about their own lives and communities. It is interesting to debate the reliability of oral histories as historical source material; whilst an individual’s memory can be is unreliable or biased, these features give a unique and fascinating glimpse into the past and how it is recalled in the present.

In the Resources section of this site, we have put together ideas for how oral history can be incorporated into school teaching for older students.  Should you wish to add to the existing subject packs, or suggest new resources or subject areas, you can get in touch with us via email: oralhistory@newcastle.ac.uk.


Oral History can be used in almost any subject area, but the content of some subjects lend themselves to its use. The subject resources we provide were developed in consulutation with teachers.