Invitation to Tender: City Lives

2 08 2016

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Are you an oral historian who wishes to do research on the UK financial sector? If so, this tender may interest you.

National Life Stories, the oral history fieldwork charity based within the British Library, is seeking to employ a freelance consultant for 20 days (daily rate will be £200.00) in order to complete a Scoping Study for the project City Lives Revisited—to inform its rationale, structure, timeframe and identify potential funders. The successful applicant will require a detailed knowledge of the UK’s financial sector and its history, and preferably will have an understanding of oral history as a discipline and methodological approach.

This is a freelance consultancy service for National Life Stories beginning in October 2016. All applications must be received by 5.00pm on Monday 26 September 2016.

Between 1987 and 1997 National Life Stories (NLS) explored the inner world of Britain’s financial capital and gathered 150 in-depth biographical recordings with men and women from the Stock Exchange, the merchant and clearing banks, the commodities and futures markets, law and accounting firms, financial regulators, insurance companies and Lloyd’s of London. The City Lives project is a unique record of the complex interrelationships and dramatic changes which defined the Square Mile in the late twentieth century.
The first City Lives interviews (BL catalogue no. C409) were made in time to capture a substantial body of memories of the days when London’s financial sector was concentrated in the Square Mile and British family banking dynasties conducted business in a manner handed down from the previous century. By the time the project ended, the effects of Big Bang, including the influx of powerful overseas securities firms, and the geographical pull of Canary Wharf had changed the landscape completely. Many of the well-known names had vanished – Barings Bank being only one of them – and the shift to screen-based electronic trading had swept away traditional working methods and relationships. City Lives documents personal accounts and pivotal moments, among them the British Aluminium battle, the arrival of women traders at the Stock Exchange, the privatisation of British Telecom, the Big Bang in 1986, the 1987 Crash, the creation of LIFFE and the rise in power of the American banks in London. Inadvertently, the project caught the zeitgeist of the City before 9/11, an atmosphere that seems unlikely to return.

City Lives: The Changing Voices of British Finance by Cathy Courtney and Paul Thompson (Methuen, 1996) was edited from the interviews, and 76 interviews are now available online worldwide in their entirety as part of a new ‘Banking and Finance’ package at http://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Banking-and-finance for use by scholars and researchers and anyone interested in the City. The BL’s oral history collections also include other interviews related to banking and finance notably The Jobbing System of the London Stock Exchange: An Oral History (C463), An Oral History of Barings (C1367), the Kynaston London International Financial Futures & Options Exchange (LIFFE) Interviews (C1053) and the Kynaston Phillips & Drew Interviews (C1054).

Much has happened in the City and in the UK’s financial sector since 1997 and NLS is now planning to initiate a new oral history programme – City Lives Revisited – to document the key recent changes that have occurred. We now want to commission a Scoping Study to assess existing oral history collections relating to the UK’s finance sector, both at the British Library and more widely, and make recommendations about the scope and scale for a new programme of interviews.

Oral history is a uniquely useful tool for collecting personal testimony, insight and reflection. Beginning with older, senior figures – but ranging right across the sector from top to bottom – we are envisaging that City Lives Revisited will document the key period between 1995 and 2008, spanning 9-11, when the City was convulsed by the Asian (1997) and Russian (1998) debt crises; by the rise of new media and technologies, and the internet bubble; and by the Y2K panic. Leading up to the crash of 2008 the City also witnessed the rise of the large global banks, hedge funds and private equity funds. Post-2008 and leading up to Brexit the project will seek to document the casualties of the crash, the impact on the City and chart how regulatory frameworks have shifted.

As with the existing interviews in City Lives, the new project will record one-to-one audio interviews averaging ten to fifteen hours in length made over several sessions, the content of which will range broadly over each individual’s career history, education, background and family. This biographical, or life story, approach has proved rewarding for previous projects and enormously valuable for researchers seeking a more rounded view of an individual and their contribution to their profession. The interviews will be archived and – subject to interviewee consent – made available at the British Library onsite and online, for consultation by researchers, historians and biographers.

The brief

National Life Stories is seeking to employ a freelance consultant for 20 days in order to complete a Scoping Study for the project, to inform its rationale, structure, timeframe and identify potential funders. The successful applicant will require a detailed knowledge of the UK’s financial sector and its history, and preferably will have an understanding of oral history as a discipline and methodological approach. Reporting to the NLS Director, the successful candidate will provide the following services:

1.
To act as consultant researcher for City Lives Revisited: to prepare and deliver a Scoping Study preparatory to a major oral history project on the recent history of the financial sector in the United Kingdom with particular reference to the City of London.

2.
This Scoping Study will encompass:

o A desk-based summary mapping survey of the key existing oral history and life story collections relating to the UK financial sector which can be found in publicly-accessible archives and libraries in the UK, by way of a gap analysis, highlighting priority topics, individuals, themes and areas for fruitful oral history research.

o An assessment of the key developments in the sector since the initial City Lives project. This is intended to provide a working historical rationale and framework for the project.

o A position paper evaluating the potential scope of a life story project within the sector. This should recommend options for the likely themes of enquiry, possible interviewees and potential funding avenues.

3.
Findings will be reported to the NLS project team comprising:
Dr Robert Perks, NLS Director/Oral History Lead Curator, BL
Sir Nicholas Goodison, NLS Advisor
Cathy Courtney, NLS Project Director
Cai Parry-Jones, Oral History Curator, BL

The proposed schedule of work will be:
o October 2016: start date
o Mid-November 2016: draft summary of preliminary key findings
o End November 2016: project team meeting at BL
o Early December 2016: submission of final Scoping Study to project team

4.
Copyright in the research findings and Scoping Study will be held by National Life Stories at the British Library

Terms and Conditions

This is a freelance consultancy service for National Life Stories for 20 days’ work (7.5 hours per day) beginning in October 2016. The daily rate will be £200.00.

This contract is for work on a self-employed basis, where the successful candidate will take responsibility for their own tax and National Insurance contributions, and will invoice National Life Stories upon delivery of the report.

Applications

To apply you should send a CV and a covering statement (no more than four A4 pages in total) explaining how your experience and skills meet the requirements specified in the project brief to:

Dr Rob Perks, City Lives Revisited Scoping Study, National Life Stories, British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
nls@bl.uk

Please indicate where you found this position advertised.

All applications must be received by 5.00pm on Monday 26 September 2016.

Interviews will take place at the British Library on Wednesday 5 October 2016.

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