Madge Dresser Interview

A short clip from an interview with Dr. Madge Dresser in 2011. Here she explains about what piqued her interest in the story after arriving in Bristol and motivated her to pursue the project.  The pamphlet , ‘Black and White on the Buses’ was the result, which remains the key text for understanding  the history of that UK civil rights campaign and its impact.
Interviewers: Mary Ingoldby and Rob Mitchell. Camera: Daniel Antelo.

MADGE DRESSER SAYS: “I think I have been inspired by Social History but I wouldn’t define myself or narrow myself to be just a Social Historian because you can’t really disentangle the economics and the cultural from the social so I think what I would say is that I am someone who was interested, not just in high politics but is interested in the experience of ordinary people, as well as those who are more powerful and how they interact with one another. And to do that you have to understand the sort of material and economic base and then go on to the social and cultural. And economics is really important but cultural ideas have their own force too and it’s trying to also access people who don’t usually end up in the archive.

Well History started off as something about great men you know in Parliament and the corridors of power and of course it widened out with Economic History really coming into its own by the 1930s and then Social History looking at the experiences of ordinary people, quote unquote. And I think now people realise you can’t understand the experience of ordinary people without understanding the circumstances in which they operate and the people who are in elite positions of power too – you have to look at the interaction between the two.

I have always been interested in ideas about social justice and about people whose stories haven’t been told, so that’s what I think has fascinated me about History. And also the way that people will think differently in the past. I mean the past is a foreign country and it’s getting inside the heads of people and it’s trying to recreate or understand how it must have been and what it was like for them in different circumstances- that’s what fascinated me.”