Adam Matthew Digital publishes the first module of Mass Observation Project: 1981-2009

08 July 2020

Published product

This first module covers the 1980s from Thatcherism and the AIDS crisis, to the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana, and Live Aid.

Adam Matthew Digital has today announced the publication of the first module of Mass Observation Project: 1981-2009

Widely regarded as one of the most important and unique social history archives in existence, Mass Observation Project is the 1981 revival of the original Mass Observation, first launched in 1937. The aim of the project was, and remains, to document the social history of the United Kingdom through the personal responses to a diverse selection of topics, sent in by ‘mass observers’ located across the country. The Mass Observation Archive is now held at the University of Sussex, and is one of Art Council England’s ‘Designated’ collections of national and international importance. 

Adam Matthew Digital is now making this content fully digitised for the first time. This first of three modules covers the 1980s and is a fascinating source of personal diaries and first-hand accounts from a diverse range of ‘mass observers’ in BritainThe material consists of responses to questionnaires, referred to as directives, and covera broad range of topics from global politics and events such as the emergence of AIDS and the Cold War; to details of the wonderful and the mundane in the everyday lives of individual respondersThis range of topics makes it a truly rich source of primary source content on British social history.

The value of this project is really second to none. This type of bottom-up history, from those living it day-to-day, is a fascinating way of studying the impact of what we now view as huge cultural and political moments. There really is no parallel to this content in the English-speaking world and it is certain to be fundamental benefit to the understanding and study of modern social history for both students and scholars.

Martha FoggDeputy Managing Director, Adam Matthew Digital

The publication of the first module of Mass Observation Project: 1981-2009 includes c18,000 handwritten and typed responses appealing to all university-level researchers with an interest in British social history.

We’re excited to continue working with the team at Adam Matthew to make this material available to the wider academic community. We know how valuable it has been to scholars and researchers of British social history and it really is a vital and unrivalled resource full of valuable qualitative data. The 1980s, 90s, and 00s saw a huge amount of change – culturally, economically, and politically – in Britain. The responses of our Mass Observers provide a view of how these huge changes were experienced on a very granular level.

Kirsty Pattrick, Mass Observation Projects Officer, University of Sussex

Mass Observation Project 1981-2009 benefits from substantial metadata, making it easy for researchers of all levels to locate relevant content. Although observers are anonymous, the collection features a significant level of key information allowing users to identify age, sex, employment, and marital status as well as location. Printed and typed documents within the collection are full text searchable and the handwritten responses benefit from the application of Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR), making the entire collection fully discoverable with a simple search.

Join our webinar! 

Tuesday, July 14th | 4pm BST

Adam Matthew Digital is hosting a live webinar to celebrate the launch of Mass Observation Project, Module I.

We’ll be joined by Dorothy Sheridan MBE, FRSA Director of the Mass Observation Archive (1990-2010), Trustee of the Mass Observation Archive (2010-2020), Professor Claire Langhamer, Professor of Modern British History, University of Sussex and Jill Kirby, Lecturer in History, University of Sussex.




To find out more, or to arrange a free trial, visit the Adam Matthew Digital website here: