Library

Directive Replies 1939-55

From January 1939, Mass-Observation produced a monthly questionnaire which it distributed to members of the volunteer panel. The questionnaire was known as a 'directive'. Here you can search to find out which writers wrote about particular topics.

Search the database of respondents

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Search tips

Use the subject index to identify a topic of interest, and then search the directive respondents to see how many people wrote on the subject.

Clicking 'Search' in the subject index without filling in any search terms will give a full list of directive subjects.

Use one or more of the fields below.

Search tips

Identify specific writers according to biographical details, and then search the subject index to see on which topics they wrote.

About the respondents

Over 3,000 people took part in this project between 1939 and 1945, although for any one month, the number of replies received never exceeded 500 and was usually much less.

Unfortunately no directive replies for the year 1941 have survived although there is no doubt that directives were sent out that year and replies were received.

About the subjects

One of Mass-Observation's chief concerns was the study of civilian adaptation to wartime conditions. Most of the directive questions dealt with food and clothing rationing, evacuation of children, air raids, housing, transport, conscription, the Armed Forces, war work, separation from loved ones, health and so on.

There was also an interest in people's reactions to the news. Reactions to government propaganda campaigns were monitored as well as views on newsreels, newspapers, BBC Radio and the cinema. Opinions were solicited on the progress of the war, political leaders and other nationalities. Some questions were repeated at intervals.

Questions on wider issues - class, race, marriage, money, health, education, and especially people's hopes and fears for the postwar period - were also included.