It is often said that history is written by the victors.
But oral history has been firmly associated with the voices of the 'ordinary' citizen - a view of turbulent times from the bottom up.
It offers a different version of the unfinished business of the past, be it war, revolution or dictatorship.
In this two-part documentary Alan Dein explores how oral history collides with the official version that has been committed to history books - particularly in nations where the outcome is still bitterly contested.
'Giving a voice to the voiceless'
In Argentina, Memoria Abierta (translated as 'Open Memory') has worked alongside human rights organisations since 1999 to recover the stories of those who survived the so-called 'Dirty War' of the 1970s and '80s.
The Italian historian Alessandro Portelli has been a vital figure in using oral history to challenge and amend the past in Italy.
His account of a single Nazi massacre in Rome in 1943 illustrated how the word-of-mouth history could be crucial in reconstructing the meaning of historical events.
In Russia, the Memorial organisation has come into direct conflict with the authorities over its attempts to gather the voices of those who survived the Gulag and the repressive world of Stalin's Russia.
In a nation where even now the history books still hover uneasily over both Stalin's legacy and the 'achievements' of Soviet times, the work of Memorial has proved troubling and unwelcome in official circles.
Both South Africa and Ireland have seen multiple oral history projects aimed at helping victims give voice to recent trauma and restore them to the mainstream of recorded history.
What has been crucial in all these projects has been the training and empowerment of local voices - not just professional oral historians - to gather intimate and sometimes disturbing stories within their own communities.
Alan Dein hears voices of experience from across the globe and from those using oral history to challenge the past.
First broadcast on 29 September, 2010
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