Mass Observation Project, 1981-2009

Explore the history of Britain through three turbulent decades, written by those living through it.

Winner of Best Reference Database 2020
- Library Journal

Mass Observation Project 1981-2009 provides digital access to a unique life-writing archive, capturing the everyday experiences, thoughts and opinions of people living through the turbulent final decades of the 20th century and the advent of the 21st century.

Writing in response to directives (questionnaires), hundreds of Mass Observers provide a unique insight into an extraordinary range of subjects, from the deeply personal (sex, family) to everyday life (shopping, holidays) to global affairs.

The unique nature and matchless depth of this material makes Mass Observation Project an invaluable resource for anyone teaching or researching British history of the last forty years.

  • 9/11
  • AIDS
  • Body piercing and tattooing
  • BSE
  • Christmas
  • Criminal Justice Act
  • Death of Princess Diana
  • Falklands War
  • First Gulf War
  • Gardening
  • General elections
  • Holidays
  • Iraq War
  • Millennium
  • Morality and religion
  • National Lottery
  • Natural disasters
  • NHS
  • Railway strikes
  • Royal weddings
  • Security and crime
  • University

Modules include

Module Summary Date
Module I: 1980s

This first module from the Mass Observation Project covers poignant events from the 1980’s, including the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana, the Falklands War, and the AIDs crisis, as well as the daily lives of individuals from a range of social and economic backgrounds.

Module II: 1990s

Module II of Mass Observation Project focuses on social and political events of the 1990s, including the Mad Cow epidemic, the death of Princess Diana, and the General Election.

This module also has a strong emphasis on participants personal opinions and social lives, with respondents discussing personal relationships, health concerns, and issues of rising unemployment.

Module III: 2000s

Module III has a strong emphasis on technological advancements and the changing means of communication that came with the new Millennium. Highlights within this module include the Millennium Diaries, the events of September 11th and Environmental concerns, as well as detailing the everyday lives, thoughts, and opinions of respondents.


Key data

Period covered


Source archive

  • The Mass Observation Archive, University of Sussex, Special Collections
  • Current affairs
  • The family
  • The home
  • Leisure
  • Politics
  • Society, culture and the media
  • Work, finance and the economy
  • Printed directives (questionnaires)
  • Prose responses to directives typed and in manuscript
  • Newspaper cuttings
  • Photographs
  • Leaflets and other ephemera
  • Brian Lewis, McGill University
  • Sian Nicholas, Aberystwyth University
  • Jen Purcell, St Michael’s College, Vermont
  • Lucy Robinson, University of Sussex
  • James Vernon, University of California, Berkeley
  • Great Britain, Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish Studies
  • Sociology, Social History and Social Science
  • Essays introducing and contextualising the Mass Observation Project
  • Video interviews with leading academics, exploring the archival material
  • Chronology of 1980s Britain, with links to documents


Supporting material


Mass Observation Project: 1981 - 2009 - New for 2020

Culture, society, and politics in 1990s Britain - Studying the decade using Mass Observation Project


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