Nature and Scope

About the Mass Observation Archive
Selection criteria and modules
Redactions and data protection


Mass Observation Project consists of all the directives (questionnaires) sent out by Mass Observation and the responses to them from the hundreds of Mass Observers.

Poster for Usborne books sale from C2079's response to 1989 Summer directive part 2

Addressing topics such as the Falklands War, clothing, attitudes to the USA, reading and television habits, morality and religion, and Britain's relations with Europe, the directives and responses are an essential resource for anyone interested in late-twentieth-century British social history.

Broad themes covered include current events, friends and family, the home, leisure, politics, society, culture and the media, work, finance and the economy and new technology.

Learn how to get the most out of using Mass Observation Project in our User's Guide. For in-depth analyses of selections of the archival material and case studies of their use, see our Essays and Videos.

About the Mass Observation Archive

The Mass Observation Archive preserves the papers of the original Mass Observation movement and current Mass Observation Project and makes them publicly available, as part of the University of Sussex's Special Collections at the Keep in Brighton. At the heart of the Archive's work is safeguarding these records to inspire learning and research and ensure they continue to be made available for future generations.

The Archive is a charitable incorporated organisation in the care of the University of Sussex, and is open to all. Lord (Asa) Briggs, as vice-chancellor of the University in 1970, was responsible for bringing the collection to Sussex and opening it up as a public resource for historical research.

The Mass Observation Archive continues to gather documents about everyday life in Britain through the Mass Observation Project, launched in 1981. The Archive also welcomes offers of donations of life-story documents produced by people in accordance with the traditions of Mass Observation. Please visit its page about donating personal papers for more information.

Find out more about the origins and history of Mass Observation here, or read Stephen Brooke's essay.

Selection criteria and modulesDrawing of a living room from B693's response to 1983 Autumn Directive

This resource includes all the directives sent out by the Mass Observation Project from when it was started in 1981 to the end of 1989 (plus one from 1990 asking observers to look back at the 1980s), together with all the responses to each. We have excluded only responses by writers from whom we were unable to secure permission to reproduce their work.


Later directives and responses will be added in two subsequent modules, in 2021 (the material from 1990 to 1999) and 2022 (2000 to 2009).

Redactions and data protection

The administrators of the Mass Observation Project undertake to ensure observers' contributions are anonymous. A thorough and consistent redaction process, agreed in consultation with the Mass Observation Archive and with reference to legal guidelines, has therefore been followed in the creation of this digital resource.

In order to protect observers' privacy, identifying information (such as names and addresses, dates of birth, detailed descriptions of localities, and identifying aspects of photographs) which could compromise a writer's anonymity has been removed.

At no point has redaction been undertaken as a means of censoring these academically important and historically valuable documents.

We would be pleased to receive any questions about these matters at