Mass Observation Online

The University Library is delighted to announce access is now available for the University of Cambridge to Mass Observation Online.

Mass Observation Online makes available original manuscript and typescript papers created and collected by the Mass Observation organisation, as well as printed publications, photographs and interactive features. A pioneering social research organisation, Mass Observation was founded in 1937 by anthropologist Tom Harrisson, film-maker Humphrey Jennings and poet Charles Madge. Their aim was to create an ‘anthropology of ourselves’, and by recruiting a team of observers and a panel of volunteer writers they studied the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. This resource covers the original Mass Observation project, the bulk of which was carried out from 1937 until the mid-1950s, offering an unparalleled insight into everyday life in Britain during these transformative years.

The vast content of the Archive can be divided into two main types: material collected by investigators, and material submitted by volunteers. This raw data was, in turn, summarised in the file reports (or in a few cases, the official publications). The material collected by investigators comprises thematic studies, undertaken by paid ‘observers’, and comprising surveys, collections of ephemera, accounts of ‘overheards’ and covert observations of the general public. The material submitted by volunteers, on the other hand, are deeply personal accounts of individual lives provided by the amateur observers from MO’s ‘National Panel’. The duality apparent in these two opposing methods of data collection was present from the very beginning of Mass Observation’s conception, and has been attributed to the conflicting aims of the co-founders of Mass Observation, Tom Harrisson and Charles Madge. From the very start Mass Observation’s methods were divided: Harrisson taking his anthropological, scientific approach to Bolton for the Worktown study, in which the invisibility of the Mass Observation observer was essential, while Madge remained in London to build up the collection of diaries and personal writings from the volunteer National Panel.

The Archive of Mass Observation, a pioneering social research resource, provides access to around 115,000 digital images of material generated by mass observation between 1937 and 1949, with a few later additions from the 1950s and 1960s.

This is an invaluable resource for sociologists, cultural historians and a wide range of other disciplines.

Pamela Slater of 8 Wellgarth Rd N & W. II Single Architect 25, writes [on Monday 8, July, 1940, two months to the day before the first mass air raid on London on 7 September]:

Started new architectural job at London Bridge …

Had lunch with caretaker of the building and her husband where I work-she is sure that London is not going to get bombed “has said so all along!” Much talk about new tea rationing-most people philosophical about it- doesn’t affect me as I don’t care for the stuff.

I can’t bear to think about France – its like having to get used to the idea of a great friend suddenly dying of hidden cancer-till now unsuspected.  What satisfaction can be felt at the Navy’s action against the French fleet, it just makes one feel sick inside.

In lunch time today I walked along Eastcheap to Tower HIll where hundreds of people were standing round a tough, shirt-sleeved, perspiring individual high up on a buttress wall of the higher terrace.  After listening to him with much enjoyment for some time I realised that he must be the famous Donald Soper who I have only seen once before, respectably churchy at a public meeting.  He was grand- held the audience in the hollow of his hand, and kept everyone good-tempered inspte of saying all the time exactly what he wanted to say.  A wind was blowing over the Thames and, what with the new atmosphere of city workers in black coats, and the smells of warfs and granaries and store houses unimaginable goods, I came back to work most cheerfully.  It is really a sign of something healthy in our civilisation that in wartime a pacifist can stand up and talk Christian Pacifism for an hour to a mixed audience and get down amid the affectionate plaudits of that audience.

State Papers Online Part IV

New resource: State Papers Online : the Government of Britain, 1509-1714 : Part IV

The Seeley Historical Library and the University Library are delighted to announce the acquisition of Part IV of the State Papers Online : the Government of Britain, 1509-1714.

Part IV completes the University’s acquisition of the State Papers Online for this period and comprises the Stuarts and Commonwealth, James I – Anne I, 1603-1714: State Papers Foreign, Ireland and Registers of the Privy Council.

The final installment of the four-part archive, State Papers Online, Part IV: The Stuarts, James I to Anne, 1603-1714: State Papers Foreign, Ireland, Scotland and Acts of Privy Council is an extensive collection of all the foreign state papers of the British monarchy from the reign of James I in 1603 to the end of the reign of Queen Anne, in 1714.

This unique online resource reproduces the original historical manuscripts in facsimile and links each manuscript to its corresponding fully-searchable calendar entry. It is an unprecedented, groundbreaking primary source collection for British Early Modern history and courses on the Stuarts.

Access State Papers Online via this link.



British Online Archives

Trial access is now available until 15 November to British Online Archives.

Drawn from recently scanned or microfilmed manuscripts and archives, the British Online Archives comprises collections for research in territories colonised by Britain (America, India, Africa, the West Indies, New Zealand, Australia and Melanesia), including records made by the East India Company and the records of missionaries from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

British Online Archives also contains a range of sources that relate to both politics and history, including the Parliamentary Labour Party papers and the Anti-fascist newsletters of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, and the records of the Communist Party of Great Britain and The British Union of Fascists’ newspapers and secret files.

Access the trial via this link and please send us your thoughts and feedback on the archives by writing to  Thank you.

Users of Firefox may need to navigate to Options/Applications, find Portable Document Format and if it is set to “Preview in Firefox” change this to “Use Adobe Reader”.

BFI InView

New on eresources@cambridge A-Z: BFI InView

BFI InView offers a unique window on Britain’s changing political, economic and social landscape in the age of film and television. BFI InView makes available some 1,000 hours of non-fiction moving image titles to view or download, alongside 8,000 pages of related documents. With expert commentary provided by BFI curators and other specialists, BFI InView is an indispensable resource for learning, teaching and research communities.

Access BFI InView with Shibboleth login via this link or via the eresources@cambridge A-Z.

Image from Ashley Green Village school of “Village School” capturing the wartime activities of Britain’s women teachers, “standard bearers of an education Nazi-ism would destroy” –  directed by John Eldridge and produced by Alexander Shaw, 1940, for the Ministry of Information (in which the headmistress, Mrs James, teaches 3 classes at the same time!)

State Papers Online III : The Stuarts and Commonwealth, James I – Anne I, 1603-1714: State Papers Domestic

The University Library is delighted to announce State Papers Online Part III “The Stuarts and Commonwealth, James I – Anne I, 1603-1714: State Papers Domestic” has been added to its existing purchases of Parts I and II of the State Papers, digitized by Gale Cengage from the original State Papers held at the British Library, the National Archives, and the library of Hatfield House.

State Papers Online, 1509-1714 (‘SPO’) offers a completely new working environment to researchers, teachers and students of Early Modern Britain. Whether used for original research, for teaching, or for student project work, State Papers Online offers original historical materials across the widest range of government concern, from high level international politics and diplomacy to the charges against a steward for poisoning a dozen or more people. The correspondence, reports, memoranda, and parliamentary drafts from ambassadors, civil servants and provincial administrators present a full picture of Tudor and Stuart Britain.”

Access Part III of State Papers Online on or off campus via this link or visit the eresources@cambridge History resources page or A-Z list.


British History Online (premium content)

The University Library now provides access to the premium content of the British History Online resource run by the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London.

Comprising high quality digitizations of primary sources for the study of British history, British History Online includes, for example, the “Casket letters” used as evidence against Mary, Queen of Scots (from the Calendar of State Papers for Scotland), an architectural account of the Covent Garden Theatre and the Royal Opera House (from the Survey of London), the Bill of Rights (from the Statutes of the Realm), and Titus Oates’s Narrative concerning the “Popish plot” (from the House of Lords journal).


Now the “premium content” is also available to the University of Cambridge, consisting of the Parliament Rolls of Medieval England (Edward I to Henry VII), all the volumes of the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic 1537-1714, the Calendars of State Papers for Scotland and Ireland, plus the Calendar of Close Rolls.

British History Online can be accessed via the eresources@cambridge A-Z at this link.