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Papers from the Mass-Observation Archive at the University of Sussex

Part 10: Topic Collections - Leisure and Entertainment, 1937-1951

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 10 concerns leisure, including:

  • Holidays (from holiday camps to London Zoo and sea-side resorts);
  • Leisure (embracing football matches, dog racing, pubs, sex, cinema, hunting, reading, crosswords, betting, working men's clubs, smoking and drinking);
  • Live Entertainment (Fun fairs, amusement arcades, the circus, pantomimes, music hall, variety shows, theatres, opera, ballet, dances, and concerts);
  • Music, Dancing and Jazz (observations in dance halls and night clubs);
  • Sport (Effects of the war on sport, and material on athletics, billiards, coursing, cricket, darts, football, greyhound racing, horse racing and betting, ice hockey, pigeon racing, rugby, skating, snooker, swimming and yachting);
  • Astrology & Spiritualism (exploring popular beliefs and superstitions);
  • Wall Chalkings, Jokes, Games and Jigsaws.

"In more recent years many of my students have used M-O material for their essays and dissertations, and have, in the process, become historians, anthropologists, or sociologists .... "
Alistair Thomson, University of Sussex

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