E.S. Turner

  • Nella Last’s War: A Mother’s Diary, 1939-45 edited by Richard Broad and Suzie Fleming
    Falling Wall Press, 320 pp, £9.95, September 1981, ISBN 0 905046 15 3

In a storeroom at Sussex University lie the records of Mass-Observation, an organisation of anonymous people-watchers which in its heyday ran into much criticism. Some of its supporters made large claims for its methods and findings; respectable journals hailed a new form of social research, while others jeered; Evelyn Waugh complained of ‘pseudoscientific showmanship’. During World War Two a minute by an official in the Ministry of Home Security described Mass-Observation reports on blitz morale as ‘a most extraordinary mixture of fact, fiction and dangerous mischief’ emanating apparently from ‘the intelligentsia’ (see Living through the Blitz by Tom Harrisson, co-founder of the organisation).

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