Mass Observation Online provides a unique and multifaceted picture of British society and culture from the 1930s to 1960s. The eras spanned include the later years of the Great Depression, World War II, the postwar recovery and reconstruction, and the return to prosperity. The material in this digital archive is drawn from a larger microform collection, documenting a 30-year project to observe and record the opinions and attitudes of a broad sample of British society. Data was collected in two ways: (1) reports by trained investigators in the field using surveys, collecting materials, and covertly observing behavior and conversation; and (2) personal accounts/diaries from a corps of volunteers: a “National Panel.” Also included are a large and wide range of reports based on the surveys (arranged by topic), photographs, background essays on the developing discipline of mass observation research, chronologies for a variety of sectors of society, and resources for teaching.
The range of topics covered is huge, including popular culture, consumerism and fashion, sex, marriage and the family, and attitudes toward war, politics, America, Europe, and Russia. Although the geographic focus of the archive is the United Kingdom, it provides data and insights into mass European and Atlantic societies of great value to scholars in many disciplines – not only social, cultural and political history, but sociology, anthropology, political science, and contemporary literature. The collection can be searched or browsed in a variety of ways and is of value for both advanced researchers and undergraduates seeking primary sources for their papers.