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Celebrating 60 years of The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren


We recently hosted a half-day conference in our Oxford office, to celebrate 60 years of OUP title The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren by Iona and Peter Opie, which was first published in November 1959. The book broke new ground in the study of contemporary school-aged children’s culture, and is still highly regarded as a pioneer in its field.

The conference looked back at the Opies’ work around children’s language and folklore, and the sources and methods by which it has been studied over the past 60 years. It also marked the formal launch of the Opie Archive website, which makes thousands of schoolchildren’s contributions received by the Opies publicly available.

There were a number of speakers at the event, sharing their insights on children’s language, and how it has continued to evolve since the Opies first publishing The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. The speakers included:

• Jonathan Robinson, Lead Curator in Spoken English at the British Library,
• Andrew Burn, Professor of English, Media, and Drama at University College London
• Yaling Hsiao and Nicola Dawson, Research Associates, Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford.
The event closed with a live demonstration of the Opie Archive by Steve Roud, consultant to the Opie Archive cataloguing project, and Julia Bishop, Research Associate at the University of Sheffield and Co-Investigator on the British Academy research project Childhoods and Play.

Speaking about the conference, and why it is so important to celebrate the work of the Opies, the event’s organizer Julia said: ‘The Opies’ meticulous research into children’s oral culture in post-war Britain is a national treasure. Based on children’s own accounts at the time, it documents their lore, language, and games in vivid, candid, and unsentimental detail. Sixty years on, it is a rich source of historical data for the study of children’s worlds and cultural practices. It also provides a key reference point for comparison with childhoods today and has the potential to inspire a new generation of young contributors to document their peer cultures and everyday lives.’

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