Seven Lives from Mass Observation: Britain in the Late Twentieth Century

ISBN : 9780198787136

James Hinton
224 ページ
149 x 222 mm

What was it like to live in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century? In a successor to his acclaimed Nine Wartime Lives: Mass Observation and the Making of the Modern Self, James Hinton uses autobiographical writing contributed to Mass Observation up to 1981 to explore the social and cultural history of late twentieth-century Britain. Prompted by thrice-yearly open-ended questionnaires, Mass Observation's volunteers wrote about their political attitudes, religious beliefs, work, childhoods, education, friendships, marriages, sex lives, mid-life crises, aging - the whole range of human emotion, feeling, attitudes, and experience. At the core of the book are seven 'biographical essays': intimate portraits of individual lives set in the context of the shift towards the more tolerant and permissive society of the 1960s to the rise of Thatcherite neo-liberalism as the structures of Britain's post-war settlement crumbled from the later 1970s. The mass observers featured in the book, four women and three men, are drawn from across the social spectrum - wife of a small businessman, teacher, social worker, RAF wife, mechanic, lorry driver, City banker: all active and forceful characters with strong opinions and lives crowded with struggle and drama. The honesty and frankness with which they wrote about themselves takes us below the surface of public life to the efforts of 'ordinary', but exceptionally articulate and self-reflective, people to make sense of their lives in rapidly changing times.


1 Mass Observation
2 Histories
3 Housewife
4 Teacher
5 Social Worker
6 RAF Wife
7 Mechanic
8 Lorry Driver
9 Banker
10 Conclusion


James Hinton, Professor Emeritus at the University of Warwick, has published widely on the social history of twentieth-century Britain. His early work in labour history included The First Shop Stewards' Movement (1973) and Labour and Socialism (1983). A spell of intense political activism in the 1980s anti-nuclear movement was reflected in Protests and Visions: Peace Politics in Twentieth-Century Britain (1989). Turning his attention to the 1940s, he published two monographs on contrasting groups of active citizens: Shop Floor Citizens: Engineering Democracy in 1940s Britain (1994); Women, Social Leadership, and the Second World War (2002). Since retiring in 2004 he has worked on Mass Observation, publishing Nine Wartime Lives: Mass-Observation and the Making of the Modern Self (2010) and The Mass Observers: A History, 1937-1949 (2013).