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Mass Observation Project – British social history for the 1980s and 1990s

Posted on by Lauris Olson

The Mass Observation Project continues to compile the "Anthropology of Us" for Great Britain, starting in 1981 and building upon the original Mass Observation program that ran from 1937 to 1967.

The Mass Observation Project issues survey directives that solicit narrative responses from approximately 1,300 informants on specific topics of current interest - during the 1980s and 1990s, directive responses explored popular attitudes about the events in the Royal family's marriage and divorce - as well as on everyday life, family, the home, leisure, and food.

Mass Obs Project Module I, 1980s provides responses to directives on Thatcherism, Britain's participation in the European Economic Commission, the Falklands War, Chernobyl, the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, and concerns over a new plague called AIDS.

Mass Obs Project Module II, 1990s covers mine closures, the end of Conservative rule and the rise of Tony Blair, the Good Friday Agreement, the Soviet Union's break-up, Stephen Lawrence's murder and the Macpherson Report, Mad Cow Disease, and the approach of Y2K.

The Adam Matthew Digital database presents documents held by the Mass Observation Archive, University of Sussex Special Collections. The database provides page images with searchable fulltext for Mass Obs Project directives and for typed and handwritten responses. The manuscript responses are searchable through Adam Matthew's Handwritten Text Recognition technology. Mass Obs Project Module III, the 2000s will be released in 2022, perhaps to coincide with the next season of The Crown.