About the Project

The aim of this AHRC funded project is to produce a unique digital research resource on the oral history of the Commonwealth since 1965. When completed, it will include at least 60 major interviews with leading figures in the recent history of the organisation. The project will provide an essential research tool for anyone investigating the history of the Commonwealth and will serve to promote interest in and understanding of the organisation. These interviews contain the views of a wide range of Commonwealth actors – politicians, diplomats and civil servants – on the evolution of the Commonwealth and its activities since the creation of the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1965.


Commonwealth Secretary-General & Mrs Arnold Smith and the Rt Hon Malcolm MacDonald wearing Nigerian robes presented to them on behalf of the organisation of Nigerian indigenous businessmen by the Chairman Alhaji Garba Nautan Hamza and His wife. Credit: Commonwealth Secretariat ref ar073

They focus on key themes in the diplomacy of the Commonwealth: leadership; mediation; bilateral and collaborative international pressure for racial justice; developmental issues; democratization; the Commonwealth’s contribution to the evolution of international norms and legal frameworks on debt forgiveness, the law of the sea, election monitoring, nuclear non-proliferation. The interviews also includes comment from those governments who were on the receiving end of Commonwealth strictures (Britain, in the cases of Rhodesia and South Africa; South Africa; Fiji, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe;) as well as observations from the wider Commonwealth ‘family’.


HM Queen Elizabeth II, head of the Commonwealth with Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku at Westminster Abbey,London, UK after the Commonwealth Day Observance in 1999. Credit: Commonwealth Secretariat ref ad082

All interviews are available in electronic transcript form, searchable by participant’s namesubject theme (e.g apartheid; development), country, or by key word free text search in the search box (above right).  Most are also available in audio  form (though as the syntax of the transcripts has been tidied for ease of comprehension the two do not always directly correlate).  In certain cases, the transcripts have been edited and amended by the interviewee, in accordance with copy right licence of the interviewee. As these amended interviews may differ from the original recording, the audio version is not available.

It should be noted that these views are those of the individuals themselves, and should not be seen as representative of those of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies; nor does the ICS accept liability for any obscene or libellous material that these interviews may contain.

Please note, the oral history interviews that form part of this project are licensed for use under the creative commons attribution non-commercial no derivatives license. In addition, some individual contributors have stipulated that you must gain their consent in order to quote from their interviews, or inform them when you do so. Where there are particular conditions of use, this is stated clearly at the top of the transcript. Please note it is the researcher’s individual responsibility to gain this consent.

For more information on how you can use and cite these interviews, please follow this link.

Please contact Dr Sue Onslow for more information.