The Mass Observation diary and directive writers (1937-1960s)

The Mass Observation Archive is made up of various types of material collected both in the early period (1937 - mid 1950s) and the current project (1981 onwards). The earlier phase of Mass Observation has in itself produced several 'layers' of material in accordance to the methods in which material was collected. On this page you can find out more about the Mass Observation diary and directive panel

Personal Writing 1937-65

The founders of the original Mass Observation social research organisation recruited a national panel of volunteer writers to reply to regular questionnaires and tasks.


Full personal diaries kept usually on a daily basis by members of MO’s national panel. About 500 men and women submitted diaries during this period.


Answers from members of the national panel to the regular MO "directive" or open-ended questionnaire on a variety of subjects including personal issues.

Day Surveys 1937-38

One day diaries written by people from all over Britain who volunteered to be members of MO's national "panel" of observers. See the catalogue for more information. From time to time these day diaries included special tasks such as the June 1937 survey on mantelpieces and a survey of Kew Gardens.