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MASS OBSERVATION ARCHIVE
Papers from the Mass-Observation Archive at the University of Sussex

Part 11: Topic Collections - Industry and Social Conditions, 1938-1955

Mass-Observation was a pioneering social research organisation whose papers provide insights into the cultural and social history of Britain from 1937 to 1965. 
Its strength is that it describes everyday life in the words of ordinary people, with extensive interviews and records of overheard conversations, rather than through polls.  The collection is also a wonderful source of contemporary ephemera.

Parts 4-12 cover the majority of the Topic Collections, which bring together the primary material collected by Mass-Observation's studies from 1937 onwards. By accessing this original data, scholars are able to form their own conclusions about the many topics which were investigated. Part 11 concerns Industry and the circumstances that led to the Labour landslide of 1945.  It covers:

  • Industry (wartime factory conditions and industrial relations);
  • Coal Mining (a survey of two Welsh mining communities, Blaina and Nantyglo, and miscellaneous surveys of coal mines and miners, 1939-48); 
  • Happiness (a 1938 questionairre describing the things that make ordinary people happy);
  • Labour Party 'Ask Your Dad' (Response to a campaign mounted by the Labour Party to remind the public that the Tories had presided over bad social conditions and high unemployment between the wars);
  • General Elections (material collected during the election campaigns of 1945 and 1950, with much on welfare state politics).

"Mass-Observation can be described as a project designed to involve the mass of 'ordinary people' in a sociological research process - an 'anthropology at home.'" 
Liz Stanley,
Manchester University



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