Hearing authentic voices from the past is the next best thing to time travel!
If you are fascinated by social history, as am I, then having a chance to listen to people’s voices from past decades is more than enlightening – it’s inspiring. Such must have been the thinking behind a social research project, initiated in 1937, called the Mass Observation Project.
Three former students from Cambridge University – Charles Madge (poet); Tom Harrisson (anthropologist) and Humphrey Jennings (filmmaker) collaborated with others, including artists, photographers and journalists, in an attempt to “systematically… record human activity”.
At first they collected anecdotes and overheard comments, supplementing these with “man-in-the-street” interviews. But then, in 1939, they invited members of the public to record and send them a day-to-day account of their lives in the form of a diary. Some 480 people responded, offering diary entries that varied in style, content and length.
The concept proved useful during the Second World War when Mass Observation, on occasion, helped…
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