Follow the link below to view a PDF version of Robert’s dissertation
The Non-Payers, MA dissertation: Personal narrative, collective memory and the oral testimonies of poll tax rebels (September 2011)
This dissertation is the product of many months of fieldwork nationwide documenting the testimonies and personal archives of participants in the anti-poll tax movement, spanning the latter twentieth century to present day. The author is vague about the exact period, because oral testimonies span lifetimes, from the earliest influences to the moment of the interview itself. The following chapters therefore engage not only with the phenomenon of mass non-payment, but with those influences upon the testimony that foreground its intersubjectivity. Those influences such as interview context, culture, and the subjective self are explored in depth as a means of identifying collective trends in how the poll tax rebellion is remembered by the rebels themselves. The author raises questions as to the existence of a truly objective source, basing the viability of oral testimonies upon the need for a fresh approach to what historians consider credible and trustworthy. The call to embrace subjectivity is the author’s means of drawing individual agency back into our analysis, as it returns from a long diversion into the seemingly deterministic principals of post-structuralism. It reviews and counterpoises two of the dominant existing works on the movement against one another, Poll Tax Rebellion (Burns, 1992) and A Time to Rage (Sheridan, 1994), and in turn against a sample of the oral testimonies collated in order to ascertain the extent of synthesis between the written and oral. The author applies the work of social cognition theorists Roger C. Schank and Robert P. Abelson, and the narrative theory of Gerald Prince and Wolf Schmid to unpack the layers of personal narratives and grasp how collective memories are created through social exchange. The piece provides a methodological and theoretical basis for a more thorough study of the orality of the movement and the post-industrial period as a whole.
All audio recordings and transcripts can be accessed at the University of Exeter Heritage Collections by contacting Christine Faunch, Head of Heritage Collections and Culture Services:
University of Exeter
Prince of Wales Road
Tel: 01392 723879