Despite some dismissal of the research value of its idiosyncratic materials, a substantial body of scholarly publications now uses first-phase Mass Observation papers (1937-50s). An emerging body of literature also draws upon the post-1981 papers of the Mass Observation Project. While Mass Observation's significance as a historical source is demonstrable through its vast scale, unique holdings and acknowledged international standing, how the eclectic form and content of such materials might best be interpreted is less clear. This article provides a summary of and engagement with the issues of methodological concern to researchers using the archival materials generated by the Mass Observation Project, in particular at the point of its thirtieth anniversary, and also reflects on methods of historical interpretation more generally. Core debates considered include the complex legacies of the original organization and ongoing concern with the demographic 'representativeness' of the volunteer panel. The sometimes challenging form and scale of the archival material, and the always interdisciplinary nature of the project (and its researchers), lead to a range of differences in how the material is characterized, as well as in the sampling and interpretive models employed. Through an exploration of debates raised in the recent University of Brighton research network Methodological Innovation: Using Mass Observation, alongside a review of publications that reflect, methodologically, on the use and value of the Mass Observation Project, this article evaluates varied and cross-disciplinary research practices and approaches to present a defence of Mass Observation material as a unique means of accessing the difficulties and complexities of messy everyday life.
We describe the factors which according to competition entrants determined individual happiness. These were remarkably stable across age groups and gender. Economic security emerged as the dominant consideration, whilst personal pleasure was represented as playing little part in generating happiness. A detailed analysis of the happiness letters and questionnaires suggests that introspective and relational factors were also important determinants of well-being. We demonstrate that these introspective factors were framed by an individual's personal moral framework and that relational factors were under-pinned by gendered conceptions of domestic happiness.
This paper explores the making - and breaking - of property in early sixteenth-century England, examining the range of strategies available to those engaged in negotiating and resisting enclosure, common rights and land-use change. It interrogates the relationship between litigation and direct action, paying particular attention to those self-help strategies other than hedge-breaking - itself already the subject of considerable scholarly interest - by which enclosure and agricultural change could be promoted or resisted. The paper focuses on strategies such as animal and human trespasses, animal rescues and mass ploughings, highlighting the importance of occupation and trespass as ways of resisting the extension of private property rights, even whilst possession was also property's ultimate aim. In doing so, the paper explores enclosure and land use change as an ongoing process and a contested practice through which local communities and individuals played a key role in the making of modern property relations.
Despite the profound impact that the History Workshop Movement has had on the postwar British historiographical tradition, the circumstances of the History Workshop's founding have received surprisingly little scholarly attention. Rather, the bulk of published work has tended to focus on the broader place of the Workshop, or on specific elements such as the rise of the feminist voice in the Workshop community, or the Workshop's efforts to bring together forms of historical or historically informed inquiry which normally existed in separate spheres. In this article I focus on the circumstances, influences and motivations behind Raphael Samuel's setting up of the History Workshop at Ruskin College, Oxford, in 1967. I seek to make three main points. First, profound as was the Workshop's approach to, and notion of, 'history from below', it emerged not in isolation, but as part of a wider attack by social history on British historiography taking place in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Secondly, I seek to highlight the importance of pedagogy as a formative influence on Samuel's interest in establishing the Workshop. Plugging into this, I lastly make a case for Samuel's own romanticized perceptions of Ruskin College's connection to working-class radicalism - both what this had historically been, and what he believed it could be once again - in shaping his determination to radicalize the College curriculum.
We live in a new era of evidence. The knowledge economy demands new kinds of evidence deployed through new types of channel. Policy-makers demand evidence to support decision-making. 'Evidence-based policy' is built around the need to know if a strategy or a policy or any other kind of intervention - in medicine, criminal justice, welfare, banking or international aid - has 'worked' and whether it is cost effective. But what kind of evidence is sought and from what sources? How are outcomes evaluated? How do policy-makers deal with the uncertainty and contradictions so often generated by research?. This article considers the contribution that historians might make in providing and critiquing evidence in these everyday scenarios. Given that our work consists of assembling, selecting, sifting and presenting evidence we might argue that we should play a major role particularly when History as a discipline faces contentious calls to demonstrate its public impact. However, we might argue the opposite. In terms of policy, for example, historians might continue to offer evidence of what 'has not worked' in the past as opposed to what 'might work' in the future. We might point to the epistemological uncertainties and doubts generated by new empirical claims to truth. This article focuses on these opportunities and challenges. Using two contrasting case studies, from Vietnam and East Anglia, it asks how historians can carve out a distinct role as constructive sceptics in the knowledge economy.
The focus of this article is on responses to men who raped in early modern England and Wales. Most historical writing on sexual violence and rape in the period has focused on the women and children who were subjected to such abuse rather than upon the perpetrators. The rapist, when he appears, is presented at some times as everyman and at others a monster. The article explores what may be at stake in such a dichotomous view and its unresolved tensions not only for historians but also for early modern people. Using primary sources including pre-trial depositions, printed sessions papers, and newspaper reports of rape and rape, the article explores some of the ways in which early modern people responded to the figure of the rapist, viewing rape either as an ordinary expression of male desire or an extraordinary exhibition of brutish force in ways that seem at once familiar and alien to modern commentators.
'Printing, Writing and a Family Archive: Recording the First World War' explores the Layton Family Archive, which is housed in an eighteenth-century box. In 1890, this box became a secular reliquary, housing memorials to Gerald Layton, who had died as an infant. The memorials included clothing, toys, pressed flowers, and hair. But by 1930 the reliquary had been transformed into an archive, including materials about Gerald's brother Eric Layton, who was killed in action in 1916 at the Somme. This archive was constituted by disposing of nearly all the non-textual objects and giving a central place to a wide variety of blank forms and blank books, including birth and death certificates, postcards, military and naval forms, diaries, birthday and gardening books. Focusing on the interaction between printing and manuscript, we analyze how 'personal' writing is shaped by printed blank forms and books, which are both an incitement to and a material constraint upon writing and upon the ways in which we record and remember.
By focusing on the experience of the first continental tours organised by Toynbee Hall (London's first University Settlement, in Whitechapel), this paper contributes towards modifying some of the stereotypes associated with the 'English', travel and Italy. The case-study here analysed argues that the early guides of the Toynbee Hall Travellers' Club saw adult education tours as an opportunity to impart a transnational education give British 'citizens'. The attraction of visiting liberal Italy was closely linked with the aims of co-operatives travel: combining cheap travel with educational purpose. It was also linked with the desire to witness the signs of social and educational progress in a young democracy coming of age. This article analyses the untypical 'gaze' of these pioneering 'co-operative travellers', arguing that the rhetoric of European democracy and 'humanity' - disseminated at Toynbee Hall by Giuseppe Mazzini's Victorian admirers - provided adult learners (men and women) with a mental map which informed their experience of 'foreign' encounters. Indeed their journeys to Italy allowed Toynbee Hall travellers to transcend the conventional 'picturesque', 'orientalist' readings of the Italian 'character' deeply seated in the cultural imagination of traditional Grand Tour consumers and more recent bourgeois 'tourists'.
The rise of 'community arts' in Britain in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, has been overlooked by historians, in favour, perhaps, of the louder and messier subcultures of the time. In these decades a network of nationally and locally funded community arts projects emerged, largely in the inner city, that encouraged working-class Britons to paint murals, write plays and poems and direct movies in their neighbourhood. This paper traces the history of two such projects in East London. The participants in these projects created performance spaces, directed more than forty short films, self-published countless poetry books and ran landscape architecture classes, all with the intention of channelling what the activists deemed to be an 'ordinary' working-class culture. Finding this 'ordinary' working-class culture in a de-industrializing and racially diverse neighbourhood proved, however, to be harder than it had at first seemed. In encouraging the residents of Tower Hamlets to express themselves through their art, community artists came up against diverse and newly felt ethnic and gendered identities, which were then promptly codified in the murals, films and stories produced by the residents, making community arts an ideal site for tracking the changes to Britain's social body in this period.
This paper argues for a reassessment of colonial discourses relating to the tribes of Eastern India. In the context of the serious tribal rebellions of the nineteenth century, colonial administrators put into place forms of governance that took into account indigenous land use practices and forms of authority, thus creating legal protection for the tribes. Whilst these reforms were not sweeping or far reaching enough they did put a brake on the wholesale exploitation of these marginalized communities under colonialism. The measures were carried on into the post-colonial period under the powers conferred in 1950 by Schedule 5 of the Indian constitution, whose origins can be traced to the colonial discourses of tribal protection which I delineate here. Since independence and more recently, Eastern India has become subject to new kinds of both internal and external economic colonization, far more traumatic in impact than colonization before 1947. It may well be that current trends in globalization are creating a new post-colonial imperialism even less accountable than its predecessor: one characterized by ecological inequity, growing environmental injustice, human-rights abuses and a consequent rising tide surge of state violence and counter-violence.
This article is not an essay in library history. Rather, it offers personal testimony of what the Fawcett meant, and TWL continues to mean, to me. It largely draws upon my own memories from the mid 1970s onwards. These recollections I have checked more recently against dusty boxes of Fawcett-TWL research notes and newsletters that I hoarded over the decades. In the aftermath of TWL's most recent crisis, this article is published to mark LSE's new custodianship of the Library, and its opening as TWL@LSE, with magnificent accommodation in one of the finest academic libraries in Europe.
Were Jews fundamentally different to others while possessing superficial similarities, or was the reverse the case? This article examines different answers to this question as they were debated at three moments in modern Britain: the mid-eighteenth-century controversy over the naturalization of foreign-born Jews, the politics of religious emancipation in the mid nineteenth century and debates on immigration, empire and race in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Taking the example of the collaboration between Francis Galton and Joseph Jacobs in the 1880s, the essay shows that at times there was a significant interplay between Jewish and non-Jewish conceptions of the Jews' difference. Building from this example, the author proposes that there is a need for the established historiography of antisemitism to be supplemented by new work that is more alive to synchronic contexts and which sets attitudes to Jews alongside other notions of difference.
To tackle the paucity of direct sources on these migrants, this account of their travels takes an interdisciplinary approach. It starts with a close analysis of their photographic portraits, a body of archival material that is still awaiting adequate description and interpretation. It makes use of classic first-hand archival material - like passports, letters and yellowed pictures from the archive of Archivio Ligure della Scrittura Popolare of Genoa (ALSP) and the museum of Compiano (Parma) - but it also employs a more unusual body of criticism that ranges from the mythological implications of bears to the use of visual semiotics, visual anthropology, psychoanalytical theory and art history.
Calcutta in the late nineteenth century was a melting-pot of migrant workers, artisans, servants, boatmen, labourers, petty traders and shopkeepers and an army of clerks, besides of course the better-known and more frequently studied residents, the educated Bengali classes. As the administrative and commercial capital of British India, the city was the quintessential harbinger of modernity in the sub-continent. What was the reaction of its more humble inhabitants to the changing world around them? Contemporary songs on Calcutta, some of which were later captured in print, provide some entry-points into their mental world. This article is an investigation of urban experiences in the colonial metropolis as articulated in its street song cultures. It looks at how singing and songs in Calcutta in the late nineteenth century animated the urban domain with widely shared discourses on the city - on women, material changes, natural disasters and sexuality - validating the experience of a recently urbanized world seen from below. Incidents and experiences narrated in the songs offered common reference points around which public debate could crystallize and urban sensibilities shaped. The study thus also traces the emergence of an urban public, just under the educated layers, that was visible and vocal, and quite organically located in the city's open public spaces - streets, markets, open grounds.
This piece considers the resonances between historical and more contemporary forms of condescension and class consciousness, two prominent themes of Edward Thompson's classic text and of at least one historian's training at an elite American university.
One enduring legacy of The Making of the English Working Class is Thompson's careful attention to the agency of ordinary people. I suggest that his methodology offers a means of identifying agency and resistance across different periods of history. His use of both class and experience, which were challenged by the cultural turn, deserve renewed attention, as they offer important analytical tools for historians. Rather than simply describing class as a social phenomenon, The Making provides us with a way to analyze class as a dynamic, historically-specific relationship. At a time when inequality is presented by politicians as normative and inevitable, we need these insights more than ever.
This article considers the work of Bazooka, a small art collective comprising artists, graphic designers and strip-cartoonists who worked in Paris between 1975 and 1980. It thereby illuminates connections between youth and politics on the one hand, and emergent youth subcultures such as punk on the other. Its particular focus is on the group's quasi-terroristic presence at the left newspaper Liberation in 1977, and its challenge to key elements of post-1968 leftist practice. Drawing on this challenge, the article argues that debates about the meaning and legacy of the 1960s in general, and 1968 in particular, should incorporate understanding of the 1970s as a key period for the contested transmission of the legacies of 1968, alongside the more common focus on the generational trajectories of the so-called 68ers themselves.
This article revisits the relationship between the Communist Party and the BBC in the interwar period, arguing that Communism was a spectre that haunted the early BBC, inhabiting the vision that shaped its formation. More particularly, it argues that Communists proved an influential if uneven presence on BBC radio in the 1930s. It is about Communists on the wireless in both senses: it recovers Communist presence on the airwaves across BBC departments and regions; it also restores to view a body of pre-war Marxist analysis of the technology and cultural form or radio, of the institution of the BBC, and of the possibilities for oppositional interventions. Drawing upon a range of sources from radio listings, Communist Party publications, BBC records, and the declassified MI5 files of broadcasting Communists, it situates the work of Communists on the radio - and the ensuing patterns of BBC blacklisting and censorship - in relation to the histories of both institutions through a tumultuous period.
The 1960s was a period of rapid change in the construction labour process, whose increased mechanization and complexity represented a challenge to traditional wage systems and forms of organization. Such changes were nowhere more evident than on the Barbican redevelopment site in London, whose construction exposed the contradictions in industrial relations and clarified demands for improved conditions for building workers which resonated throughout London and the country. The paper addresses the complex reasons for and the significance of the bitter disputes on the Barbican from 1965 to 1967. It is set in the context of a construction industry in the process of rapid change through the use of new technologies and the emergence of new or non-traditional occupations, the widespread use of labour-only subcontracting (the 'lump') and often chaotic incentive schemes, tensions between design and construction, the risky award of tenders to the lowest bidder, the crude approach of many large construction firms to industrial relations (that included shutting down sites and blacklisting workers), and relatively weak and fragmented trade unions. The Barbican disputes saw the emergence of the London Joint Sites Committee, which went on to play a central role in the Building Worker Charter, to challenge major problems affecting building workers, and to be involved in the 1972 national building workers' strike. The significance of the disputes lies in the impetus for change that resulted and in the way that building workers set this in train.