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Papers from the Mass-Observation Archive at the University of Sussex
Part 8: Topic Collections - Conscription, Pacifism and War Service

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 8 includes material on life in Britain during World War II: 

  • Conscientious Objection and Pacifism, 1939-1944, looks at the experiences and individual accounts of pacifists and objectors.  It also gives detail of public attitudes towards pacifism.
  • The section on Forces covers much material on conscription, recruitment, training, and the Home Guard.  Many posters and booklets dispensing government advice are also included and can be contrasted with the first hand accounts of soldiers.
  • The Gas Masks section offers the scholar a detailed survey of government instructions and advice on the wearing and carrying of gas masks, and also contains many accounts of how civilians dealt with this advice.
  • Dogs in Wartime, examines public attitudes towards dogs.  Questions were being asked as to how these pets could be fed, whether they should be evacuated and whether they should have gas masks.  There are also accounts on how dogs coped with the air raids.
"It is wonderful that such a unique and rich collection can be made so much more accessible."
Dorothy Sheridan,
Director, M-O Archive

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