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Mass Observation archive (1937-1949)

The archive results from the work of the social research organisation, Mass-Observation, an organisation founded in 1937 by three young men who aimed to create an 'anthropology of ourselves'. They recruited a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers to study the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. This original work continued until the early 1950s. Between 1937/8 and 1949/50 the Mass-Observation produced around 3,000 typed reports summarising its research activities during those years immediately before, during, and after the Second World War. Volunteers kept diaries and responded to surveys during those years on all aspects of their daily lives. Many volunteers were women, given a unique opportunity to record their thoughts and opinions on public record, making this resource particularly useful for students of social and cultural history from a gendered perspective. The sources also provide an insight into living conditions and attitudes on the Home Front during the war years. Edited extracts from the diaries are included in the collection as are letters and directives sent to members of the volunteer panel of observers and diarists and reports analysing the replies to directives received from the panel. There are also reports on investigations, bulletins for internal circulation, printed versions of articles both by Mass-Observation and other bodies, and scripts for radio broadcasts by Tom Harrison. A number of draft typescripts for books, both published and unpublished, are included.

A full, printed, subject index is available for the collection, with topics ranging from Advertising to Children, from Crime to Foreigners, from Hitler to Morale, and from Political awareness to Religion. Original papers are held at the University of Sussex.

Date range: 1937/8-1949/50

Strengths: Social history, cultural history, women's history, the home front during World War Two.

Size: 353 microfiche, including 3,000 reports

Language:  English

Keywords:  Social conditions, politics, society, culture, women's history, World War Two 1939-45

Notes: See also the Minutes of the Unemployment Board, 1934-1948, on microfilm