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Digitising the Mass Observation Project

Did you write for the Mass Observation project in the period 1980-1989? As part of the further development of the Mass Observation project, the Mass Observation team are collaborating with their historic publishing partner Adam Matthew Digital to digitise and further engage with the academic community. We’re hoping to get in contact with all Mass Observers who contributed to the project in the time period 1980 – 1989 to discuss this exciting project and what it’ll mean for research and academia in the future.

Adam Matthew Digital has a twenty-eight-year history working with libraries and archives to make archival material available on a digital platform and international stage. Their previous work with us resulted in the fascinating and extensive Mass Observation Online, which made available the papers and material from the early Mass Observation Archive dating from 1937 to the mid-1950s to academics, researchers and students at libraries, universities and archives all over the world. This collection is viewed as an essential insight into the social history of Britain in the 20th century and the continuation of this digital collection will further enhance research and teaching for modern audiences.

If you, or someone you know, contributed to the Mass Observation project between 1980 and 1989, we’d like to hear from you. Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Mass Observation Archive is now a registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation

The Mass Observation Archive is now a registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation (registered charity number: 1179673). This organisation replaces the previous charitable trust (number: 270218). 

New Book from the Archive: Continuity and Change in Voluntary Action: Patterns, trends and Understandings

Continuity and Change in Voluntary Action: Patterns, trends and Understandings
Rose Lindsey and John Mohan with Elizabeth Mecalfe and Sarah Bulloch

There are great expectations of voluntary action in contemporary Britain but there is limited in-depth insight into the level, distribution and understanding of what constitutes voluntary activity. Drawing on extensive survey data and written accounts of citizen engagement, this book charts change and continuity in voluntary activity since 1981.


How voluntary action has been defined and measured is considered alongside individuals’ accounts of their participation and engagement in volunteering over their life-courses. Addressing fundamental questions such as whether the public are cynical about or receptive to calls for greater voluntary action, the book considers whether respective government expectations of volunteering can really be fulfilled. Is Britain really a “shared society”, or a “big society”, and what is the scope for expansion of voluntary effort?


This pioneering study combines rich, qualitative material from the Mass Observation Archive between 1981 and 2012, and data from many longitudinal and cross-sectional social surveys.

Opportunity with SAGE

Have you used Mass Observation data for research? Or collected qualitative data as part of a research project?

SAGE Publishing are looking to commission a series of data-sets by researchers that will illustrate how different methods could be applied to narrative data.

If you are interested in finding out further information see the SAGE website

Permission would be required from our Literary Agents on behalf of the Mass Observation Trustees if you choose to use Mass Observation material as fees may apply.

New publication - The Changing Nature of Happiness: An in-depth study of a town in North West England 1938-2016

The Changing Nature of Happiness: An in-depth study of a town in North West England 1938-2016changing happiness

Preface by Professor Sir Cary Cooper; Edited by Sandie McHugh

Chapters by Jerome Carson, Martin Guha, John Haworth, Sandie McHugh, Robert Snape, Matthew Watson & Linda Withey


What is happiness?

This book examines data collected in Bolton by Mass Observation in 1938 and by the University and The Bolton News in 2014. It covers the theory and philosophy of happiness, its close association with enjoyment and leisure and gives an insight into children’s experiences.

How is happiness measured and how can it be enhanced? The two data sets from one town 76 years apart, give a unique opportunity to compare and contrast ordinary people’s perceptions of the nature of happiness in very different economic and social conditions.


Sandie McHugh is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Bolton, UK.  She originally became interested in applied psychology during a career in the civil service and as a member of the Great Britain Women’s Target Sports National Squad. Her current research interests centre on positive psychology and happiness.

Published in Pivot by Palgrave Macmillan, December 2017 (e book £35.99, hardcover £44.99) ISBN 978-3-319-65651-9


12th May and Action for M.E

Action for M.E. 300dpi colour logo 1

The Mass Observation Archive is working in partnership with Action for M.E during M.E Awareness Month to record people’s experience of living with the chronic neurological condition myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E) on the 12th May. More details about taking part in the 12th May project can be found here. We are also accepting diaries via text message. The number is 07537404300

New publication - Our History of the 20th Century: As Told in Diaries, Journals and Letters

Elborough Our HistoryNew publication! - Our History of the 20th Century: As Told in Diaries, Journals and Letters.

Compiled by Travis Elborough

What better way to understand Britain during the twentieth century than through the eyes of those who experienced it at first hand? Travis Elborough's compilation offers brilliantly candid and intimate insights not only into the headline-grabbing events but also the domestic  and personal moments of those who lived through it.

The book draws on over one hundred diarists. They include the great and the good - from Beatrice Webb to Tony Benn, from A. C. Benson to Alan Bennett, from Virginia Ironside to Hanif Kureishi - as well as many less-well-known individuals such as Gladys Langford and Kathleen Tipper, whose writings for the Mass Observation Project offer brilliant glimpses into what the man or woman on the street really made of the stuff of history at the time.

From the Easter Rising to the arrival of email, from the Boer War to New Labour, here are responses to the death of Princess Diana, the resignation of Margaret Thatcher, the Moon landing, the Beatles and much more.


Travis Elborough has co-edited two previous anthologies of diaries, A London Year and A Traveller's Year. A freelance writer, author and cultural commentator for nearly two decades, his other books include The Long-Player Goodbye, a hymn to vinyl records; Wish You Were Here, a survey of the British beside the seaside and most recently A Walk in the Park: The Life and Times of a People's Institution.

New podcasts: Mass Observation 80th Anniversary Conference

New podcasts from the Mass Observation 80th Anniversary Conference are now available in the podcasts section of the website: The conference was held on 10th-11 July 2017 at the University of Sussex.

The featured podcasts are our three keynotes - Matt Cook, Joe Moran and Lucy Noakes -  and also Dorothy Sheridan and Lucy Noakes in conversation.

#MO80 - Mass Observation 80th Anniversary Conference as it happened on Twitter

The Mass Observation 80th Anniversary Conference was held on 10th-11th July at the University of Sussex. Here is how it was recorded on Twitter

#12May17 - 12th May 2017 as it happened on Twitter

As well as our normal 12th May project, we asked the Twitter community to get involved using the hashtag #12May17. Below are some of the results.




Anniversary Conference - celebrating 80 years of the Mass Observation movement

Mass Observation 80th Anniversary Logo Celebrating 80 years of the Mass Observation movement

10th-11th July 2017

The Mass Observation 80th Anniversary Conference was held on 10th-11th July 2017 at the University of Sussex. Our keynotes and closing panel comprised:

Matt Cook (Birkbeck)

James Hinton (Professor Emeritus Warwick University)

Joe Moran (Liverpool John Moores)

Lucy Noakes (University of Brighton)

Lucy Robinson (University of Sussex)

Dorothy Sheridan (University of Sussex and current Trustee of the Mass Observation Archive)


The conference programme can be found here



Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex opened the conference.

Dorothy Sheridan (Trustee, Mass Observation Archive) and Lucy Noakes (University of Brighton) in conversation


The conference was sponsored by   ADAM MATHEW LOGO MASTER CMYK

RT @TheKeepArchives: Looking for an unusual #Christmas gift? Why not treat someone to a #bookbinding workshop? We have an introduction to J…
RT @oliviaaasmith_: Upon analysing the results from my survey, myself and @LucyNoakes1 thought it would be interesting to do a word cloud f…
In 1937 Mass Observation asked the people of Bolton how they prepared for Christmas #FromTheArchives
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