Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Diary Day

 Today is Mass Observation Diary Day when members of the public are invited to send in a one-day diary for 12 May. 

You may have heard of Mass Obs through the Nella Last Diaries - Housewife 49 - the war time record of one of it's most diligent observers. It was made into a TV film starring Victoria Wood. 

Mass Observation was started in 1937 by Charles Madge, Tom Harrisson and Humphrey Jennings as a social research project. It's best known for its detailed recording of the thoughts and opinions of ordinary people during World War Two, when it was commissioned by the government to report on morale. The fear of a massive breakdown in civilian morale was a big worry for the powers-that-were in WW2. There was a deeply held conviction that the effects of bombing might paralyze the war effort at home. One of the ways that government and civil service could check on opinion in the street was though MO's work. That massive failure never happened, but it's given historians, me included, plenty of material to play with since. 

The Mass Observation records - diaries and reports and questionnaires are a valuable resource for historians of the war and that is my experience of them. I've used the old records, but hadn't realised that Mass Obs had reincarnated as the Mass Observation Project under the auspices of the University of Sussex. It's now collecting information on the everyday lives of people all over the UK and inviting people to anonymously share a dairy entry for inclusion in the archive. Last year they had 5000. 

If you have been journaling during the pandemic - or even if you haven't and want to take part, you can find all the details HERE

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