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Biography - Nigel Ingham

Nigel's people profile at The Open University

Nigel Ingham is currently a freelance researcher with a particular interest in oral history and the social history of learning disability. Recently he completed an Open University PhD oral history study into the process of running down a large long-stay hospital for people with learning difficulties.

Nigel stumbled into the joys of oral history and reminiscence work in the late 1980s in Lancaster as an adult educational worker with people with learning difficulties. Many of these individuals had lived in a large long stay institution for many years. It was a real eye opener for him: here was an activity which genuinely seemed to place people at the heart of the educational process. Their voices, their wishes were central. Many hours of audio tape were recorded as relatively elderly residents, Nigel, along with a hospital social worker and charge nurse, explored what felt like uncharted territory. This work satisfied some of his qualms about aspects of (what was then called) 'special needs' work, which so often seemed to do things to, not with, the participants.

However, the reminiscence work intensified Nigel’s desire to place these voices in an interpretative framework. Over the past few years, mainly as a community oral historian, attempting to embrace both an empowerment and an historical agenda (and discovering that the two are not mutually exclusive) has become increasingly important for Nigel.



  • Ingham, N., Mitchell, D., Traustadottir, R., Chapman, R., Townson, L. and Ledger, S. (eds) (2006) Exploring Experiences of Advocacy by People with Learning Disabilities: Testimonies of Resistance, London, Jessica Kingsley. ISBN: 9781843103592, 224pp.
  • Ingham, N., Atkinson, D. and Welshman, J. (eds) (2005) 'Change … and continuity, 1959-71'. In Atkinson, D., Nind, M., Rolph, S. and Welshman, J. Witnesses to Change: Families, Learning Difficulties and History,  BILD. ISBN 1904082750, pp. 125-202.
  • Ingham, N. and Winder, I. (2005) ‘We didn’t depend on anybody’. In Atkinson, D., Nind, M., Rolph, S. and Welshman, J. Witnesses to Change: Families, Learning Difficulties and History, Kidderminster, BILD. ISBN 1904082750, pp. 181-191.
  • Ingham, N. and Lambert, S. (2004) (eds) Fumigating the Cat & other stories from the Marsh History Group, Lancaster, 28pp.
  • Ingham, N. (ed) (2003) Gogarburn Lives (An oral history of Gogarburn Hospital, Edinburgh – Scotland’s first learning disability institution to close), Living Memory Association, Edinburgh, 120pp.
  • Ingham, N. (1997) ‘We got a pillow case filled for sixpence’ Oral Histories of childhood and growing up, Edinburgh, Bingham Older People’s Project, 44pp.


  • Ingham, N. and Atkinson, D. (forthcoming 2013) 'Ethics of Institutional Closure', Journal of Ethics and Social Welfare.
  • Ingham, N. (2009) Review of 'Bye-bye Charlie: Stories from the vanishing world of Kew Cottages', British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37(1).
  • Ingham, N. (2000) Reminiscence and Oral History: An Educational Perspective. Word of Mouth, The Journal of the Scottish Oral History Group, No. 24, Edinburgh, School of Scottish Studies, ISSN 0955/1549, pp. 32-38.

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About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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