Tom Harrisson Mass-Observation Archive

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The Mass-Observation papers are a crucial resource for the women's historian today. Not only did Mass-Observation consistently address itself to the specific needs of women in wartime, it also attracted to its ranks female investigators, writers, researchers, volunteer correspondents and diarists. It is one of the few collections to contain such a great volume of work by women in their own words.

The Tom Harrisson Mass-Observation Archive, now housed at the University of Sussex, was originally established to record ordinary people's reaction to the Depression of the 1930s, but it became an invaluable guide to the popular feelings of women and men during World War II and the years of austerity that followed.

Although Mass-Observation could not be described as a feminist organization, the archive is an excellent resource for women's studies because it recognized early on the importance of addressing women's needs separately. As a result there were a number of studies on women's interests, many of which were carried out by women.

Part One: The File Reports, 1937-41

Part One of the archive covers popular opinion and reactions to the years of the depression which preceded the outbreak of war. It highlights the stresses imposed by food shortages, unemployment and the fall in living standards.

165 fiche

Part Two: The File Reports, 1942-49

Part Two documents the tension imposed by war rationing, the mixed feelings toward the presence of American troops and the popular groundswell of opinion which resulted in the Labour landslide victory in the election of 1945. It also scrutinizes life in the bleak post-war aftermath.

188 fiche

An annotated chronological list of file reports with a subject index is provided with each complete collection.

Complete collection: 353 fiche


"Mass Observation provides a unique source of information about popular opinions and attitudes since the 1930s. Those sections of the Archive dealing with World War II illuminate not only the formation of opinions and attitudes, but also the role of government in a world of emergency." -- Lord Briggs Provost , Worcester College, Oxford

— Lord Briggnt