This introductory chapter discusses the ways in which historians and demographers have characterized and explained the fertility decline. It discusses the value of a systematic social history of the increased use of birth control using first-hand accounts from oral history alongside material collected by birth control campaigners, population surveys, and Mass Observation. It argues that men, just as much as women, need to be the focus of study. The strategies used to obtain oral history material in such a sensitive area are outlined and the range of methodological strategies employed in its analysis is revealed. The importance of dissecting the ways in which respondents organized and presented their memories is highlighted. Studying modes of self-presentation and elucidating the subjective meaning and cultural significance that individuals attach to their lives is shown to illuminate the identities which influenced beliefs and behaviour.
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