Oral history

Brian Alderson

To mark the gift of his collection to Newcastle University and Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children's Books, Brian Alderson has recorded an in-depth life-story interview with oral historian Sue Bradleyproviding a unique perspective on the field of children’s literature and on the social history of his times.

He recalls his childhood in the North London suburb of Enfield and staying with relatives in Bristol and the Yorkshire town of Castleford during the Second World War. He describes his secondary education at Ackworth, the Quaker boarding school that he would later find described by an earlier pupil, William Howitt, in the 19th-century classic The Boy’s Country Book. He remembers his undergraduate years in Exeter, where he met Valerie Wells, his future wife, and records the contribution that she too made to the field of children’s literature, not least as editor and publisher of Children’s Book News. And he talks – in illuminating detail – about his experiences as a bookseller, book collector, teacher, bibliographer, author, translator and as the Times’ first literary editor of children’s books.  

Use the links on the left to hear Brian's recollections of living in Enfield during the 1930s, Bristol in 1939, or read a transcript of Brian describing his first job at Bumpus bookshop. Further highlights will be made available in due course.