Advantage and disadvantages of Oral Tradition as a source of information on History

Oral Tradition, i.e. the practice of passing information from one generation to the next by word of mouth. It was mainly important in societies where the art of writing was absent.




four types of Oral tradition.

  • Folk tales,
  • Proverbs,
  • Songs,
  • Stories

the following are advantages of oral tradition as source of historical informations

  • They capture information that may not be obtained through other sources. For example, one who participated in the Maumau War can vividly narrate what occurred during the period.
  • They complement other sources of information.
  • They are short and easy to remember.




  • They are useful in training and activating one‟s memory. Jesters, Griots and other custodians of their communities history had very powerful and long memories.
  • In mid 20th century, many African historians used oral traditions to reconstruct the history of Kenyan and other sub-Saharan African societies.

disadvantages of Oral Traditions as a source of information on History

  • It is difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined.
  • Some information may be forgotten or omitted as oral traditions depend on human memory.
  • Informants might deliberately distort the information.




  • They may not give the correct chronology of events.
  • It is an expensive method of getting information.
  • It is time-consuming.