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MASS OBSERVATION ARCHIVE

Papers from the Mass-Observation Archive at the University of Sussex
Part 6: Topic Collections - the Home Front during World War Two

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 6 includes material on the Home Front during World War II, including:

  • Evacuation (Hundreds of handwritten accounts by children describing their forced translocation, description of the scenes at railway stations as they left and interviews with parents);
  • Youth; and Children and Education (many fascinating insights into the education and upbringing of children, 1932-1952, with original essays by schoolchildren on topics such as 'The finest man who ever lived');
  • Women in Wartime (this surveys the whole range of women's work during the War with accounts of munitions workers, land-girls, factory life and relations between men and women);
  • Anti-Semitism (an outstanding survey of attitudes towards Jews in the East End of London in 1939, capturing the views of children and adults, together with transcribed graffiti, ephemera and descriptions of Jewish households; and later surveys following the outbreak of war).

“Mass-Observation is a major source for social historians writing about women and work in the second world war”
Penny Summerfield, (PRAXIS 37/38)



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