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Mass Observation and Everyday Life: Culture, History, Theory

Overview

Mass Observation was one of the most innovative intellectual projects of the 20th century. Triggered by the Abdication Crisis of 1936, and a sense that the views of ordinary people were not being represented by the media or political system, this social research organisation sought to establish an anthropology of everyday British life through a variety of projects which drew on a range of inventive and original methodologies. The Mass Observation Archive contains the most extensive collection of material on ...

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Overview

Mass Observation was one of the most innovative intellectual projects of the 20th century. Triggered by the Abdication Crisis of 1936, and a sense that the views of ordinary people were not being represented by the media or political system, this social research organisation sought to establish an anthropology of everyday British life through a variety of projects which drew on a range of inventive and original methodologies. The Mass Observation Archive contains the most extensive collection of material on everyday life in the world and is now a major resource for social historians.

This fascinating overview of the organization situates Mass Observation within its historical context, uncovering the true extent and significant it played, with its unique formula of observation of the masses by the masses for the masses, in the formation of postwar Britain. By showing how the founders combined poetical perception and surrealist inspiration with political purpose and anthropological understanding, this study demonstrates how a mass movement can transform society.

A new Afterword examines the contexts for the revived popular and Academic interest in Mass Observation and argues that the profoundly democratic achievement of the project was to show how people's lives can be simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An insightful new history" — The New Yorker

"Hubble's account is much needed, and the depth of detail and analysis that is evident in it ensure that it is likely to remain an essential guide to Mass Observation for years to come" — Textual Practice

"an excellent appreciation of Tom Harrisson and his fellow Mass Observation co-founders" — History Workshop Jourbanal

"an important book...invaluable to anyone wanting to understand what lay behind Mass Observation and how the organization developed" — Literature and History

"Hubble provides an exhaustive investigation into the origins of Mass Observation [and] their influence on successive generations of intellectuals" — Jourbanal of Interdisciplinary History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230247888
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 5/15/2010
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

NICK HUBBLE is a lecturer in English at Brunel University, UK. A former Research Fellow at the Mass-Observation Archive, he has also taught at the University of Sussex, Kingston University and the University of Central England, Birmingham, UK.

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations ix

Acknowledgements x

Introduction: The Mass-Observation Project 1

Defining Mass-Observation 1

A Brief History of Mass-Observation 4

Everyday Life and Social Transformation 10

Chapter 1 Historical Background 17

Everyday Life in the Long Twentieth Century 17

Social Surveys: From Booth's Life and Labour of the London Poor to Kracauer's Die Angestellten and the Lynds' Middletown 27

Chapter 2 The Space of Former Heaven 38

Cambridge Experiment 38

Letter to Oxford 46

British Social Anthropology 54

Popular Poetry and the 'Thirties' 61

Chapter 3 The Intellectuals and the Masses 79

Profane Illumination and New Objectivity: English Surrealism and British Documentary 79

Empson's Imaginary Solution 91

Chapter 4 Early Mass-Observation 104

The Formation of Mass-Observation 104

Coronation Pastoral 120

Chapter 5 Britain Begins at Home 133

First Year's Work 133

First Year's Reception 142

The Munich Crisis 150

The Lambeth Walk 157

Chapter 6 The Mobilisation of Everyday Life 165

Active Leadership and the Civilian Army

The Ministry of Everyday 179

Co-operating with the Tax Collector 189

Chapter 7 The Demobilisation of Everyday Life 200

Politics, Penguins, Pubs 200

Society in the Mind 212

The Resumption of the People's War 219

Conclusion: Mass-Observation Reassessed 226

Afterword: Extra/Ordinary People 230

Bibliography and Sources 255

Index 268

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