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

Part 7: Topic Collections - Air Raids, Morale and the Blitz

Part 8: Topic Collections - Conscription, Pacifism and War Service

Publisher's Note

“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” - as a way of harnessing and explicating “public opinion” as well as, relatedly, helping close the gap between the decision-making of political leaders and the convictions and wishes of ordinary people. Its history is entwined in complex and fascinating ways with the history of the disciplines of anthropology, economics and particularly with sociology”.
Liz Stanley, Professor of Sociology , Manchester University
writing in The Archaeology of a 1930’s Mass-Observation Project

The Mass-Observation Archive is an indispensable source for all those interested in Britain in the 1930’s, the home front during World War II and the post-war history of Britain. Researchers are able to discover the views and feelings of ordinary people, through descriptive accounts of their experience and transcribed interviews, on a fascinating range of subjects such as housing, sport, fascism, communism, work, social conditions, religion, cinema, holidays, the onset of war, evacuation, rationing, the Blitz, public morale, post-war hopes, the welfare state, household budgeting, entertainment, shopping, education, the police, public health, trade unions, politics, strikes, transport, royalty, jazz, family planning, industry and drinking habits.

Mass-Observation was the result of three researchers engaged in social investigation who came together by coincidence. Charles Madge, poet and journalist, and Humphrey Jennings, a documentary film maker, envisaged a London-based project in which a national panel of volunteers would reply to regular questionnaires on a variety of subjects. Tom Harrisson, an anthropologist who had worked in Borneo and the New Hebrides, had ideas for an anthropological survey of the British starting with a study of Bolton.

They met, by chance, on the pages of the New Statesmen in January 1937 where a poem by Harrisson on the culinary habits of South Sea cannibals appeared on the same page as a letter by Madge announcing that a group of poets, painters and documentary film-makers in Blackheath, London, intended to start an “anthropology of ourselves” to explore the role of myth and superstition in national life and the gulf between public opinion and what was often described as public opinion by the Government and in the Press. They corresponded and on 30 January 1937 a further letter appeared in the New Statesman signed by Madge, Jennings and Harrisson formally announcing the creation of Mass-Observation.

In February 1937 Madge and Harrisson issued Mass-Observation, setting out the aims of the group and describing observers as “meteorological stations from whose reports a weather map of popular feeling can be compiled.” The emphasis was on a true, detached, scientific observation of popular attitudes and beliefs so that popular opinion could be properly understood. If there was a unity of vision, there was an immediate parting of the ways concerning research. Tom Harrisson based himself in Davenport Street in Bolton to establish the Worktown project. Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings set up the collation of observers’ diaries in Blackheath.

Madge and Jennings recruited some 500 volunteers from the general public to form what they called “a national panel.” The panel were asked to record the every day concerns of their lives on the twelfth of each month, including dreams, hopes, and fears. From time to time they were also asked to write a report or comment on a specific topic such as “Royalty” and to help with the completion of questionnaires. This activity produced the first full-scale book by Mass-Observation - May 12th - providing reactions the coronation of George VI and accounts of what the panel thought and did on that day. The book received a mixed reception, with Evelyn Waugh accusing it of “pseudo-scientific showmanship” but the evidence gathered is invaluable and can be used to analyse popular views on royalty, the abdication crisis and the role of the King as the country approached war.

At the same time Harrisson’s team of investigators produced a documentary account of everyday life in Bolton and Blackpool by observing, talking to and recording the views and activities of people from all levels of society. They analysed religious occasions such as weddings, christenings and funerals, as an anthropologist would analyse ritual behaviour. They attended political and social meetings, sporting and leisure activities, and observed and interviewed their subjects in the street and at work. Although the recordings of the investigators were sometimes subjective, the observations revealed a level of public feeling which went beyond the direct expression of an opinion.

The Worktown project collected an astonishing amount of material, but very little was published. One aspect (concerning seaside music hall jokes) appears in Mass-Observation’s First Year’s Work (1938), an upbeat summary of their progress to date, to which Malinowski contributed an essay.

Two more books co-authored by Madge and Harrisson served to establish the reputation of Mass-Observation. These were Britain by Mass-Observation (1939) and War Begins at Home (1940). The former was an analysis of public opinion at the time of the Munich crisis and drew heavily on fieldwork and diarists’ accounts. It looked at the ways in which Hitler and Chamberlain were presented as mythical figures, evil incarnate and the magical bringer of peace, and at the methods by which politicians and the press sought to sway popular views. It showed that the Press was out of step in its hero-worship of Chamberlain as the public had seen through the Prime Minister from the time of the second Munich meeting and the abandonment of Czechoslovakia.

War Begins at Home was similarly critical of the Chamberlain government which was disparaged as being completely out of touch with the views of the public during the first months of war, as it had been during the period of appeasement with Germany.

The outbreak of war inevitably disrupted the activities of Mass-Observation and accelerated the divisions that were growing among its founders. Humphrey Jennings left in 1938 to join the Crown Film Unit. Charles Madge left in mid-1940 to oversee a wartime research project for the Institute of Economic and Social Research on Wartime Patterns of Saving and Spending. All activities were centralised in London and Tom Harrisson took over direction of the work.

Madge did not agree with Harrisson that Mass-Observation should accept the patronage of the Ministry of Information during the war (even though it was offered by a good friend, Dick Crossman). He was worried that they would become an instrument of propaganda and a part of the establishment. Harrisson saw this as a unique opportunity to gather facts on popular opinion “so that after the war we may be able to tell the truth for the first time.” It was also a means to keep Mass-Observation going. The work in Bolton was suspended in 1940 and the panel of diarists were asked to respond to monthly directives asking their opinions on subjects such as air raids, black- outs, employment and rationing. There were daily records of people’s reactions to the news and special investigations on subjects such as the response to the bombing of Coventry in November 1940. These surveys provided the basis of Mass-Observation’s Weekly Intelligence Reports for the Ministry of Information, and also for their reports for individual companies relating to shopping and lifestyles. As always, Mass-Observation were careful to retain the original evidence wherever possible so that it could be subjected to subsequent analysis free from the methodologies and preoccupations of the day.

Tom Harrisson joined the army late in 1942. After a year at a Yorkshire training camp where he devoted his free time to overseeing the publication of The Pub and the People: a Worktown Study (1943), he was parachuted into Borneo as a member of the covert Special Operations Executive (SOE). Until his return in 1946, another full time Observer, Bob Willcock, took over control of Mass-Observation. Writing in 1943 in the American Journal of Sociology Willcock noted that:

“Mass-Observation is particularly concerned with people’s behaviour, their subjective feelings, their worries, frustrations, hopes, desires and fears ... The Blitz period, despite and even partly because of its human tragedies, was a field day for Mass-Observation.”

Willcock helped to organise surveys of factory life, fashion, radio, religion, films and hundreds of other topics. Mass-Observation also played a major role in sounding out public opinion regarding the post war world and the need for social reform. As well as surveys on the Beveridge Report, there were numerous studies on issues such as Reconstruction, Health, Education, Demobilisation, Fuel, Food and Housing.

After the war Mass-Observation continued to function as a hybrid between a gatherer of public opinion for the government and a market research analyst. In 1947 Willcock left to work directly for the British Social Survey Unit and Tom Harrisson accepted a post as Government Ethnologist for Sarawak. In 1949 Harrisson passed his rights over to Mass-Observation (UK) Ltd, an independent market research organisation, that continues today as a subsidiary of the British Market Research Bureau. In exchange he retained all rights to the pre-1949 material which was deposited at the University of Sussex in 1970 at the invitation of Asa Briggs, then Vice-Chancellor at Sussex. This material was subsequently deeded to the university in 1975.

During his return to Britain in 1959 Tom Harrisson presided over a second visit to Bolton and Blackpool and papers relating to this are also in the archive. In 1975 he started a further project on attitudes towards royalty. Sadly the untimely death of Tom Harrisson and his wife in a motor accident in Bangkok halted this, but the work was completed by Philip Ziegler. A further phase of Mass-Observation activity was started by Dorothy Sheridan with Mass-Observation in the 1980s and has continued through the 1990s and into the new millennium with the assistance of a new panel of volunteers.

The Mass-Observation Archive was officially opened at the University of Sussex in 1975 and offers access to all of this material. The papers of the Mass-Observation can be divided into seven groups:

Publications, 1937-continuing - Twenty-five books appeared during Mass-Observation’s original phase of activity, 1937-1950, most of which are now out of print. Two further books were published in the 1960s and Mass-Observation has generated over a dozen more since 1981, as well as booklets for schools.
The Worktown Collection, 1937-1940 - these are the sixty-five boxes of material gathered during Mass-Observation’s first major field survey.

The Topic Collections, 1937-1960 - the primary material generated by Mass-Observation’s studies on a host of topics from 1937 onwards including records of interviews, detailed questionnaires, written submissions from observers and ephemera related to the topic.

The File Reports, 1937-1972 - these are the typewritten reports which summarised their investigations. These are a very useful introduction to the boxed collections and particularly to the Topic Collections.
The Day Surveys, 1937-1938 - these were the diaries kept by the 500 strong panel on the 12th of each month.

The Diaries, 1939-1963 - Even after the discontinuation of the Day Surveys many observers continued to submit a monthly diary to Mass-Observation. Not all are complete and many diarists stopped writing after the war. The latest diary submitted was in 1963. Nella Last’s War and Among You Taking Notes were based on the Diaries.

The Directive Replies, 1939-1955 - over 3,000 people responded to the monthly questionnaires sent out by Mass-Observation concerning race, class, marriage, money, health, education and other topics.

The Mass-Observation Archive also includes material generated by the new panel of volunteer writers since 1981. It continues to place an emphasis on subjective experience and descriptively rich material which can offer insights into every day life. This qualitative data is complementary to the data derived from statistical and quantitative social research.

Adam Matthew Publications is delighted to be working with the Mass-Observation Archive at the University of Sussex to make the original research notes, records and publications more widely available. The microfilm edition is divided into a number of parts.

Part 1: Publications, 1937-1966

Part One of the microfilm publication acts as an introduction to the archive consisting of all twenty-five books published by Mass-Observation during its initial period of activity from 1937 to 1950, both books published in the 1960s and a guide to the archives. Few libraries possess these volumes and most are out of print. They are used heavily by researchers at the archive as they offer carefully worked analysis of projects undertaken by Mass-Observation. Titles include:

Mass-Observation (1937) - a general introduction by Charles Madge and Tom Harrisson;
Early publications such as May 12th: Mass-Observation Day Surveys (1937); First Year’s Work (1938); Britain by Mass-Observation (1939); War Begins at Home, (1940); Copies of Weekly Intelligence Service issued February - May 1940 Reports on Clothes Rationing (1941), Home Propaganda (1941), A Savings Survey (1941), People in Production (1942) People’s Homes (1942) and The Journey Home (1944);
War Factory (1943) and The Pub and the People (1943); Individual surveys such as An Exmoor Village (1947) and Browns of Chester (a shop survey, 1947); Reports on social and political issues such as Britain and her Birth-rate (1945), Peace and the Public (1947), Juvenile Delinquency (1948), The Press and its Readers (1949) and Vote’s Choice (1950).

We also include both volumes that appeared between the formation of Mass-Observation (UK) Ltd in 1949 and the establishment of the Archive at the University of Sussex in 1970. These have also been long out of print. They are Britain Revisited, (1961) by Tom Harrisson and Long to Reign Over Us, (1966) by William Kimber.

These volumes are essential reading for anyone interested in the Mass-Observation project and their wide-ranging sociological investigations of British life from 1937 to 1966. They will be welcomed by anthropologists, social scientists and cultural historians.

Parts 2 & 3: The Worktown Collection, 1937-1940

Mass-Observation’s first major study was of a typical northern industrial town (a Worktown). They chose Bolton because of “what it shares in common with other principal working-class and industrial work places throughout Britain.” But to get a full picture of people’s lives they also had to study Blackpool (Holidaytown) where so many of the local people took their annual holiday.

The team of investigators, led by Harrisson, was made up of students, artists and writers, photographers, unemployed workers and local people. At peak periods (during university vacations) there were up to 60 investigators and the project was run from a base at 85 Davenport Street, Bolton.

All aspects of life and society were observed and recorded, just as if they were making notes on Trobriand Islanders. They explored rituals ranging from religious services to evenings at the pub. They charted beliefs, noting the activities of communist supporters of the Spanish Civil War, Fascist sympathisers of Hitler, and more traditional middle of the road views. They recorded urban myths, rude stories, jokes and graffiti. They studied class behaviour and the structure of society.

They achieved all this by following their subjects everywhere. At home, in the bed-sit, going to work on the bus, in the factory, in shops, in cafes, at football matches, in chip shops, at the cinema and on holiday. There is material on by-elections, jumble sales, the Boys’ Brigade, household budgets, public houses, pets, dances, jazz, education, shopping, children and food. Tom Harrisson reflected in 1970: “We sought to fully penetrate the society we were studying , to live in it as effective members of it and to percolate into every corner of every day and every night...”

The evidence and analysis gathered fills 65 archival boxes containing nearly 40,000 pages of original notes. In addition to material gathered between 1937 and 1940, there are notes made when they revisited the sites in 1960. All files have been filmed in their entirety.

The Worktown Collection contains excellent source material for all those interested in studying the ordinary people of Britain during a period of great change. It is a vital research tool for social historians, labour historians, historians of leisure, sociologists, and to those studying the fiction of Bennett, Lawrence and Orwell.

Parts 4-8: Topic Collections

There are over 80 Topic Collections in the Mass-Observation Archive at the University of Sussex covering issues as diverse as Adult & Higher Education; Air Raids; Anti-Semitism; Beveridge Report Surveys; Commodities; Drinking Habits; Happiness; Housing; Leisure; Personal Appearance and Clothes; Reconstruction; Sexual Behaviour; Shopping; Work and Youth. These represent surveys and investigations carried out by Mass-Observation mainly between 1937 and 1949, with some later files for the 1960s and 1970s.

Together with the Worktown Collection these represent the raw material of the Mass-Observation Archive. Some of this was worked up into a polished form in the Publications which appear in Part 1 of this series. Brief details also appeared in the File Reports, some of which have been published in microfiche. But this is the first time that Topic Collections have been published in their entirety, giving scholars an opportunity to re-examine and re-interpret the data.

The material to be found in The Topic Collections includes not only accounts of interviews but also descriptions of people, places and events, reports with drafts and plans for proposed books, project plans, instructions to investigators, questionnaire replies, internal memoranda, correspondence, printed booklets, photographs, graphs and diagrams, maps, posters, tickets, bills, advertisements and press cuttings. It is indispensable to the researcher who wishes to study the unfiltered views of the “man in the street” with regard to all kinds of contemporary issues and gives an insight into public feeling captured through a qualitative method of approach.

Part 4: Topic Collections on Social Welfare and the Beveridge Report, 1939-1949

Part 4 covers eight Topic Collections which have a strong bearing on Social Welfare and the Beveridge Report. These are:

  • Reconstruction
  • Family Planning
  • Health
  • Day Nurseries

Some consist of a single box, others run to up to six boxes. All comprise individually lettered files within the boxes, all of which have been filmed in their entirety.

Their aim is set out in one of the early Reconstruction files (TC2/2/D):

“The central aim of what we are doing is to find out what people really feel about events after the war, what their private hopes and fears are about their homes, their jobs, the political mechanism designed to make their wants known, as distinct from what planners, politicians and press-men would like them to feel.”

This material will be invaluable to anyone interested in social welfare. The Topic Collections offer a unique grass roots perspective of these issues, offering the genuine views of the public, rather than the wishes of the planners and politicians. The files will be used by historians trying to understand the Labour landslide of 1945, by sociologists and social historians investigating cultural issues, and by those studying Family Planning, Post War Reconstruction and State Provision for Social Need.

Part 5: Topic Collections on Welfare and Social Conditions, 1939-1949

Part 5 continues coverage of welfare related topics with collections on:

  • Housing, 1938-1948 (TC1, 10 boxes)
  • Work: Registration & Demobilisation, 1939-1946 (TC27, 3 boxes)
  • Food, 1937-1952 (TC67, 9 boxes)
  • Fuel, 1937-1947 (TC68, 5 boxes)

The scope of the Housing files is remarkably wide and embraces a number of the key themes of social history. Where did people live their lives? How did they live their lives? What was the social geography of the home? What did people think about their homes? All of these issues are addressed.

The files on Work deal principally with Unemployment and Demobilisation. The starting point is a survey of unemployment in 1939 and an account of contemporary demonstrations. By 1941, following conscription and national service, the emphasis had changed. In a survey carried out in 1942 one man was asked: “What do you think will happen to the men who are demobilised after the war?” His answer was phlegmatic: “They’ll all be put in the queue for the dole and forgotten.”

World War II was as much an economic war as a military one as is revealed on the files on Food and Fuel. Attacks on convoys, disruption of shipping and concentration on rearmament and the war effort resulted in food and fuel shortages at home. Rationing started as early as 1940 and continued until 1950 as Britain’s ruined economy struggled to cope with post-war realities. There are also illustrations of Mass-Observation’s forays into market research with research exercises carried out regarding margarine, coffee, fish fillets and crisp-bread.

Housing, Work, Food and Fuel are all key areas for any analysis of welfare and social conditions during and after World War II. They help to explain the desire for home ownership, the interest in gardening, and the need to build a ‘New Britain’ after the war.

Part 6: Topic Collections - The Home Front During World War Two

The experience of war is the focus of Part 6 with Topic Collections covering:

  • Evacuation, 1939-1944 (TC5, 2 boxes)
  • Youth, 1937-1943 (TC51, 3 boxes)
  • Children & Education, 1932-1952 (TC59, 7 boxes)
  • Women in Wartime, 1939-1945 (TC32, 4 boxes)
  • Anti-Semitism, 1939-1951 (TC62, 4 boxes)

The first three of these Topic Collections concentrate on the experience of children before, during and after World War II. These provide a unique perspective on events. For instance, Box 4 of the Children & Education series contains hundreds of essays written by children in 1937 describing “The Finest Man Who Ever Lived.” King George V is the most popular choice, which is perhaps indicative of patriotic fervour, but Edward VIII, Gandhi, Haile Selassie, Hitler (“He has raised a nation from the dust and made it a first rate power”) and even Raymond Westwood (inside-left for Bolton Wanderers) are chosen.

The joys and horrors of evacuation are told by children in their own words and the problems of maintaining good quality education in constrained circumstances is revealed by many teachers who responded to Mass-Observation’s surveys. There are also accounts of the war-time reading habits of children, including an analysis of some comics from 1940.

As Penny Summerfield has noted “Mass-Observation is a major source for social historians writing about women and work in the second world war” (PRAXIS 37/38) and the collection dealing with Women in Wartime is one of their most important groups of material relating to this topic. Much of the evidence concerns an investigation into wartime employment for women resulting from the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) survey of 1941. This reveals women’s attitudes to work and documents their experiences in the Land Army, in telephone exchanges, in war factories, in the WAAF and in other fields of employment open to women.

Finally, the Topic Collection relating to Anti-Semitism reveals attitudes to Jews in Britain in 1939, 1946-1947 and 1951. The 1939 survey of London’s East End is particularly revealing and capture the views of ordinary people in their own words. The later surveys show how views changed following the discovery of the death camps and terrorist activity (aimed at British soldiers) in Palestine. The answers to the question—”How do you feel about what’s going on in Palestine?” - are extremely interesting.

Part 7: Topic Collections - Air-Raids, Morale and the Blitz

This seventh part continues coverage of Topic Collections relating to the Home Front During World War II. It covers:

  • Air-Raids, 1938-1945 (TC23, 12 boxes)
  • Propaganda and Morale, 1939-1944 (TC43, 5 boxes)
  • London Survey, 1940 (TC65, 5 boxes)

There is exceptional material on the Blitz, with first-hand accounts of air-raids, descriptions of the devastation caused and the impact that this had on those concerned. London was not alone in sustaining damage and there is also extensive coverage of air-raids across the country, from Aberdeen to Brighton, and from Cardiff to Coventry. There is material on the preparations that were made for the raids and the reparations that followed them. There is much on the ARP and fire services and on the building of shelters. Above all, these papers capture the experience of ordinary people caught up in the war. The following extracts give a flavour of the material:

“A group of six men were looking quietly at the Cathedral ruins. They said little, but ‘awful’ and ‘terrible’ were words they applied to the scene. When one middle-aged man remarked ‘And this is the Twentieth Century,’ he probably epitomised the feelings of the whole group.”
(TC23, Box 8, File T: Description of the aftermath of a raid on Coventry).

“Don’t remember when a.r. warning went: was enlarging Joyce’s portraits … went from dark room to scullery to examine in light. Heard what sounded like cannon (machine cannon which had heard before during dog-fights over town). As stood at door opening to yard, ‘cannon fire’ very loud: heard some things falling & thinking these might be empty shells, went in - as did so heard bangs definitely very loud and close, quickly land on face on scullery floor & put head under sink - another bang. Heard more stuff coming down - glass and rubble ….” (TC23, Box 8, File G: Description of air-raid over Brighton).

“The village of Radlett is not more than twenty miles from London. But the impression that many people have is that London is razed to the ground, ‘crucified’ as a waiter said. One lady living in St John’s Wood won’t risk even going back for a day to her house, another refuses to visit her house in Kensington. Apparently part of this scare had been caused by a lady from Golders Green who had produced some very vivid stories.” (TC65 Box 4, File A).

“[I] got the impression that people whose homes are completely¬ destroyed seem to have a more carefree attitude to the whole situation, and to be much more optimistic and full of plans, than those whose homes were only partially damaged - windows broken, etc. A woman who has kept a little shop and finds it reduced to a heap of rubble would display quite an amount of gaiety and joking good humour about it, while one whose windows had been blown in and spoilt the current load of goods tended to be just miserable, and sometimes full of grievances about compensation etc (about which there seems to be almost total ignorance and many rumours on all hands). It seemed that total destruction brings with it a sense of relief from responsibility.” (TC23, Box 7, File A).

Topic Collection 43 (Propaganda & Morale) looks at the psychological impact of the bombing campaign and also at a wider range of issues such as attitudes towards Evacuation, Jews, War Aims and the like. In Tom Harrisson’s words: “It’s value is that it tells us exhaustively about the lower professional group (shopkeepers, clerks, civil servants) who probably dominate the country numerically and otherwise.”

Part 8: Topic Collections - Conscription, Pacifism and War Service

Part 8 covers four further topic collections relating to World War II:

  • Conscientious Objection and Pacifism, 1939-1944 (TC6, 3 boxes)
  • Forces (Men), 1939-1956 (TC29, 5 boxes)
  • Gas Masks, 1939-1943 (TC55, 2 boxes)
  • Dogs in Wartime, 1939-1942 (TC79, 1 box)

It explores the war time experiences of those who served during the war and those who chose not to.
During World War II there were over 40,000 conscientious objectors in Britain. Most were from middle and lower-middle class backgrounds and were influenced by religious beliefs. TC6 explores their experience of the war, mainly through individual accounts sent in by members of the Mass-Observation panel who were either C.O.’s or involved in pacifist activities. The papers document the attitudes of others towards them:

“To the conventionally minded some of them look odd and arty. … [With] a tendency to be vegetarian, love their mothers, and love animals.”

There are many descriptions of pacifist meetings and the violent antagonism that these sometimes engendered.

The section on Forces (TC29) covers a wide range of material including personal reports from male volunteer Mass-Observers in the Armed Forces; the Conscription Survey (1939); views on recruitment (1939); thoughts on Army Education; and attitudes of the public towards the forces (1940-41):

“For a long time I felt sorry for [soldiers], pitied them, their lives were just being thrown away. But I feel rather different now and I envy them a bit because their minds are made up, they have no doubts as to whether what they are doing is right or whether they are doing the right thing. I still feel sorry for them, their lives have been messed up, especially those about 26 or 27 who have made their names and have got to give it all up without any real reward. The only thing I do not feel is pride in them, because their very existence shows what a hell of a position we’re in.” (TC29, Box 1, File F)

There is much on life in the Forces, including soldier’s views of the Blitz, the conduct of the war, army training and on fellow combatants (there was fierce rivalry - even hostility - between many allied forces).
Material on the ‘Home Guard’ shows the intense seriousness and, at the same time, ludicrousness of Britain’s attempts to repel potential invaders. Scholars will welcome the inclusion of many posters and booklets dispensing government advice, contrasted with accounts of military manoeuvres and training facilities by volunteers themselves.

The section on Gas Masks looks at provides a detailed survey of government instructions and advice about gas masks and the extent to which this was taken up by the general public. The carrying of gas masks by civilians also came to be seen as a key indicator of wartime morale.

Public attitudes to dogs in wartime are analysed in TC79. Should they be evacuated? Could Britain afford to feed them when all food was rationed and even bones were recycled for human consumption in broth? How did dogs cope with air raids? There are also comments on various wartime accessories for dogs: “gas masks for domestic dogs or cats are, in our experience, quite impractical…” The value of dogs for companionship was balanced with the practical issues of keeping them.

For the social historian, these sources will allow a more detailed and interesting account of everyday wartime experience to be compiled.


Thanks are due to Dorothy Sheridan, Fiona Courage, Joy Eldridge and Helen Monk at the Mass-Observation Archive for their help in the preparation of this microfilm edition. This brief account of Mass-Observation and its papers has been largely based on:

Dorothy Sheridan, The Tom Harrisson Mass-Observation Archive: A Guide for Researchers, University of Sussex Library, October 1995 (Revised)


Tom Jeffery, Mass-Observation: A short history, Mass-Observation Occasional Paper No 10, University of Sussex Library, 1999 (new edition)

Further details concerning Mass-Observation, the Archive, and publications available for purchase can be found on the Mass-Observation website at:




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