Alistair Thomson


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Australian 20th century history, British 20th century history, social and cultural war history, migration history, family history, oral history, memory studies

1989 …2022

Research activity per year

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Personal profile


My research and teaching explores the ways in which life story evidence illuminates the past and its meanings in the present lives of individuals and society. I am passionate about both teaching and research, and in 2018 I was awarded the Award for Teaching Excellence, Humanities and the Arts, in the Australian Awards for University Teaching. My books have explored the histories and memories of war veterans, migrants, adult learners and post-WW2 families, in Britain and Australia. As an internationally renowned oral historian, I write about the theory and method of oral history and life history research, including research involving recorded and written memory, diaries and letters, and family photographs. I am currently President of Oral History Australia.


Between 2011 to 2015, I led the Australian Generations oral history project, an ARC Linkage collaboration between Monash and La Trobe university historians, ABC Radio National and the National Library of Australia. We recorded 300 life histories that are available online through the NLA. From the interviews we produced 10 radio programs, many journal articles, a theme issue of Australian Historical Studies, a web exhibition (From Glory Boxes to Grindr: Dating in Australia 1945-2015) and my book Australian Lives: an Intimate History (with Anisa Puri, 2017). Users of the Australian Lives ebook can listen to the interviews as they read, and then continue listening via the NLA online oral history archive. Details at:

I'm now working on two Australian Research Council funded research projects:

an oral history of Holden car workers, as part of an ARC-funded Linkage partnership project with university historians at Monash (Graeme Davison) and Adelaide (Jennifer Clark and Paul Sendziuk), the NLA, the National Car Museum and GM Holden.

* a twentieth century history of Australian fatherhood, with Mike Roper (Essex University), John Murphy (University of Melbourne) and my Monash colleagues Kate Murphy, Johnny Bell and Jill Barnard.


I am supervisor for the following graduate research students working on a wide range of 20th century history projects:

Ali Al-Bakaa - Iraqi local interpreters for the Australian Defence Force in the war zone

Ben Crone - Lack of Consequences: The Howard Government, the Iraq War, and the Anti-War Movement

Sam Dalgarno - Non-Aboriginal Stolen Generations Stories

Geraldine Fela - Remembering the Crisis: Nurses and HIV/AIDS in Australia

Naomi Frost - Transgenerational Memory in the Cambodian Australian Diaspora

Alex Jahn - History of Remembrance - Isonzo/Soca Battlefield and Remembering of the First World War 

Kevin Molloy - Post War Irish Migration to Australia, 1948-1970

Anisa Puri - Lives in Motion: Migration and Memory in 20th and 21st Century Australia

Nicolette Snowden - We live here too: An oral history of women in the coal and farming community of the Latrobe Valley


Monash units that I teach include:

Australians at War

An Environmental History of the World: From the Big Bang to Climate Change

International Studies: Origins of Globalisation

Making History at the Museum

Remembering the Past

Struggles for Justice: A History of Resistance, Rebellion and Revolt


I also teach a range of Oral History Master Classes with Oral History Victoria (and interstate and overseas) including:

Interpreting Memories

The Interview Relationship: Challenges in the Room

Oral History and Photographs

Oral History Masterclass

Training the Trainers: Teaching Oral History 

Writing Oral History


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

External positions

President, Oral History Australia

2017 → …

Fellow, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

2014 → …

President, Oral History Victoria


Research Committee, Museums Board of Victoria (trading as Museum of Victoria)

2012 → …

Distinguished Visiting Professor, Aarhus University, Denmark


Honorary Research Fellow, Museums Board of Victoria (trading as Museum of Victoria)

2012 → …

President, International Oral History Association


Trustee, Mass-Observation (UK)


Founding Editor Words and Silences, Journal of the International Oral History Association


Editor, Oral History journal (UK


Professor of Oral History, University of Sussex

… → 2007

Research area keywords

  • oral history, digital history, history and memory, migration history, social history


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