Quality & Quantity 36: 81–91, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Some Reﬂections on Being the Subject of Research
Into Memory. An Academic Critique of
Methodology Applied to a Single Person
R. E. S. TANNER
The Footprint, Padworth Common, Reading, Berkshire RG7 4QG, United Kingdom
Abstract. The author’s memory of events between 1941–60 in World War Two and civilian employ-
ment in Burma and Tanganiyika, was tested by three psychologists over three days on the basis of
his 3,000 page diary and other written records which had not been read since they were written. The
results found discrepancies in both traumatic and non-traumatic events. The methodology involved
complex interpersonal relationships related to age, sex, appearance, class, education, ethnicity, and
trust in the researchers as well as issues of what to test in such a mass of material and the validity
of the base line tests. The methodology brought out the need for researchers to know the social ﬁeld
surrounding memory such as current affairs and routine and the need for an industrial work study
approach to research planning. The overall approach used an elitist language code and did not allow
for the physical tiredness and social obligations of those involved.
Between 1945 and 1960 in the war in Burma and subsequently as a colonial ad-
ministrative ofﬁcer in Burma and Tanganyika, I had accumulated a large quantity
of personal documents. These included a diary and photographs related to the 1942
war, 400 letters written to my wife in 1945–6, reports written 1946–8 on work in
northern Burma, a detailed diary averaging 25 lines per day and albums of pho-
tographs 1948–60. Since I was still alive this mass of documents seemed to have
greater value than to be deposited in a library and unearthed when I would be no
longer able to comment, there seemed to be ﬁve additional factors for considering
that I might be of interest to researchers.
1. I had not read almost all of this material since it had been written, certainly not
the Tanganyika diary or the letters to my wife. It would have taken up too much
of my research time to no purpose and to have been personally retrogressive
leading to introspection of what might have been. In addition I had very little
association with the people whom I had known 1942–60 as they were no part
of my current life.
2. I had been a junior army ofﬁcer and a middle grade colonial ofﬁcial and thus
had no public reputation to protect. The material might well show a degree of