eResource of the month: Mass Observation Online

A pioneering social research organisation, Mass Observation was founded in 1937 by anthropologist Tom Harrisson, film-maker Humphrey Jennings and poet Charles Madge. Their aim was to create an ‘anthropology of ourselves’, and by recruiting a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers they studied the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. This resource covers the original Mass Observation project, the bulk of which was carried out from 1937 until the mid-1950s, offering an unparalleled insight into everyday life in Britain during these transformative years.

The Mass Observation Online landing page

Mass Observation Online makes available original manuscript and typescript papers created and collected by the Mass Observation organisation, as well as printed publications, photographs and interactive features. The vast content of the Archive can be divided into two main types: material collected by investigators, and material submitted by volunteers. 

Mass Observation Online offers revolutionary access to one of the most important archives for the study of social history in the modern era. The material covers:

  • The end of the ‘Hungry Thirties’ when the impact of the Depression was still being felt;
  • The onset of war, the Blitz and war on the home front;
  • The post-war world, with the rise of consumerism and television.

The value of Mass Observation is the way in which the everyday and the extraordinary are juxtaposed. The varying types of material collected by MO were always intended to complement each other, and to be used in conjunction with one another; this process is now made easier by Mass Observation Online, which allows keyword searches to be performed across all material types.

Why not have an explore for yourself?

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