Author Archives: A.G.Cole

Mass Observation Online

Mass Observation Online provides access to one of the most important archives for the study of social history in the modern era. From the end of the ‘Hungry Thirties’ to the onset of the Second World War, the Blitz and the post-War world of consumerism and television, Mass Observation Online captures the daily lives, hopes and expectations of British society and beyond during the mid-20th century. This resource would particularly appeal to anyone studying History, Literature, Sociology, Anthropology or Political Science.

Mass Observation Online comprises of:

File Reports, 1937-1972 – a complete set of over 2,000 full-text searchable documents, providing summaries of the findings of Mass Observation studies on an immense range of subjects, from cinema-going, fashion, radio and music to sex, marriage, politics and more.

Topic Collections, 1937–1965 – represent the ‘raw materials’ behind many of Mass Observation’s published studies and include questionnaires, interviews and observations as well as contemporary ephemera on subjects ranging from reading, holidays, dreams, gambling, and smoking habits to sexual behaviour, propaganda, capital punishment and the Korean War.

The ‘Worktown Collection’ – the first study of ‘working class’ Britain ever undertaken, focusing on the cities of Bolton and Blackpool between 1937 and 1940. Includes a wide selection of photographs by Humphrey Spender.

Mass Observation’s Publications – many now out of print, these books appeared during Mass Observation’s first period of activity, 1937-1950.

Diaries – the most intimate and detailed records of the day-to-day lives of respondents during and immediately after World War II.

The Day Surveys, 1937-1938 – written by Mass Observation’s National Panel of over 500 observers, these diaries record the events of a single day.

Directives, 1939-1955 – responses to wide-ranging questions on topics such as race, class, religion, politics, the atomic bomb and World War II.

Mass Observation Online is accessible via the library catalogue and the Electronic Library.

Our Facebook competition for April features a question on Mass Observation Online. Enter at and be in with the chance of winning a £20 Blackwell’s gift card.

Read All About It!

Did you know that as well as the print newspapers the Library subscribes to we also subscribe to major news databases which you can access via the library catalogue or the Electronic Library?

Factiva and Nexis UK provide access to regional, national and international newspapers in many languages. Daily newspapers are generally available on the same day and you can also search back runs.  

A number of digitised collections of historical newspapers are also available via the Electronic Library. Examples include British Newspapers 1600-1900, the Financial Times Historical Archive, the New York Times Archive and the Times Digital Archive, but there are many others.

For more information see our Newspapers web page or speak to your Subject Librarian.

Our Library Face-Off competition is all about newspapers this month so don’t forget to enter to be in with a chance of winning a £20 Blackwell’s gift card. See our Facebook page for details.

Mass Observation Online

Mass Observation was founded in 1937 by three young men to study the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. It sought to bridge the gap between how the media represented public opinion and what ordinary people actually felt and thought. A team of observers recorded people’s behaviour and a panel of volunteer writers either kept diaries or replied to open-ended questionnaires. The material collected forms an important picture of everyday life, popular culture and ordinary people’s actions, attitudes and opinions from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Mass Observation Online includes file reports, photos, diaries, personal letters, surveys and more.

Topic collections include: the September 1946 exhibition held at the Victoria & Albert Museum “Britain Can Make It”; Household Budgeting; Capital Punishment; Dreams; Drinking Habits; Famous Persons; Film; Gambling; Juvenile Delinquency; Korea; Peace & the Public; Posters; Radio Listening; Reading Habits; Religion; Smoking Habits; Victory Celebrations; and World Outlook.

The most famous of the diaries in the archive is Nella Last’s War which was first published in 1981 and gained national recognition following its adaptation for TV in 2006 as Housewife, 49, by Victoria Wood.

The Mass Observation archive is kept at the University of Sussex but most of the material is available to you via Mass Observation Online via the Electronic Library and the library catalogue.

The content of this archive is extensive, the level of description enthralling and it will fascinate scholars across the disciplines as well as the plain old curious amongst us.

Don’t forget that if you need help using this resource or any other library resources then your Subject Librarian will be happy to help. Find out more on our Subject Guides page.

The First World War: Personal Experiences

 Do you know about The First World War: Personal Experiences? This rich and varied digital collection reveals the voices and experiences of the men and women who served in the First World War. It includes: diaries, letters, personal narratives, photographs, recruiting posters and much more. It is available via the Electronic Library and the library catalogue. Don’t forget that if you need help using this resource or any of the library resources then your Subject Librarian will be happy to help. Find out more on our Getting Help page.