Diaries of Doom, Gloom and Anger

Share survey records scholars’ shocked reaction to Browne and the CSR. Rebecca Attwood reports

“I burn with indignation”, “a grave error” and “incredibly depressing”: such are the responses of rank-and-file academics to the Browne Review and impending funding cuts.

Lecturers are keeping monthly diaries about their working lives as part of Share, a research project led by the University of Kent.

In an entry on 15 October, the week in which Lord Browne of Madingley published his report, one diarist writes: “Here, writ large, is the business model of higher education…I am normally an equable sort of person, but this is too much.”

Another reports reading about Lord Browne’s recommendations in Times Higher Education and concluding that “it seems to mean the almost total privatisation of higher education – depressing stuff”.

On the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review, one participant says that they “can’t begin to comprehend” the “enormous cut in government spending on HE teaching”.

Read earlier entry, and full current entry.

Academic Lives @MassObsArchive

Academics are being invited to take part in a research project that is investigating the ways in which academics represent, share and change their teaching practices.

In a move inspired by the Mass Observation programme established in the 1930s, university teachers are being asked to keep a diary of their teaching on the 15th day of each month over the course of the next year, starting next week.

Sally Fincher, professor of computing education at the University of Kent and leader of the Share project, chose the novel way of collecting data after visiting the Mass Observation archives in Brighton.

“I’ve become increasingly aware of the limitations of traditional methods of gathering research data, such as questionnaires and semi-structured interviews which put the researcher into the frame,” she said.

The Mass Observation project, set up in 1937, used different methods. It aimed to record the lives of ordinary people in Britain via a panel of volunteer observers, creating what the founders described as “an anthropology of ourselves”.

Via “day surveys”, members of the public were asked to send in accounts of a day in their lives in the form of a diary.

Read full story, and letter in response.


University of Sussex Library Catalogue

Wow, I like the way this catalogue is set up, with the options to discover related information via a mind-map – I wonder how useful that actually is!

I spent a lot of time in the Library at the University of Sussex, especially in the Mass-Observation Archives.


Lucy Noakes: ‘Gender and British National Identity in Wartime: A Study of the Links between Gender and National Identity in Britain in the Second World War, the Falklands War and the Gulf War’

Noakes, L. ‘Gender and British national identity in wartime: a study of the links between gender and national identity in Britain in the Second World War, the Falklands War and the Gulf War.’
D.Phil. thesis completed 1996, Sussex University

Particular use is made of Mass-Observation. This focuses on the representation of men and women as wartime citizens on the public stage. Considers how ideas from the Second World War were re-appropriated for later wars. The thesis concludes that images and memories of the Second World War, which are central to ideas of British national identity, often appear to be clearly shaped by gender.

Abstract: In each case, the thesis examines the links between gender and national identity in wartime, focusing on the representation of women and men as wartime citizens on the public stage, and the ways in which Mass-Observation correspondents’ wartime writing may have been shaped by their gender. The Second World War is identified as a key moment in dominant, contemporary ideas of British national identity, and the creation of a widely shared definition of national identity during the war itself, and its re-appropriation during the Falklands War and the Gulf War, is examined. The introductory Chapter explores relevant work on national identity, gender and wartime, and sets out the theories and viewpoints which have informed the arguments used here. The Second Chapter examines the role of the Second World War in British national identity in more depth, focusing on representations of the war in contemporary museum displays as a means of illustrating its importance. Chapters Three and Four return to the Second World War itself: Chapter Three examining the gendering of citizenship in the war through a study of army education material and women’s magazines, whilst Chapter Four looks at the wartime writings of Mass-Observation correspondents, considering ways in which the writing points towards gendered concepts of national identity. Chapter Five examines the shaping and gendering of national identity during the Falklands War through a study of daily newspaper and the writing of Mass-Observation correspondents. Chapter Six analyses newspaper coverage and Mass-Observation material from the Gulf War in the same way. The thesis concludes that images and memories of the Second World War, which are central to ideas of British national identity, often appear to be clearly shaped by gender.

Published Works:


Faber Finds: Mass-Observation

I used the Mass-Observation archives extensively in my PhD research (see, as it has lots of really interesting material from observations (both direct and indirect) plus collated materials from the war years (and since). It was really ahead of its time! Much of the best material is only available by visiting the archives (based at the University of Sussex), but some of their published material is shortly to be published by Faber & Faber in modern editions.

“They offer an extraordinarily vivid glimpse of a time which will soon not be accessible to living memory. Not only that, they provide evidence of how astutely Mass Observation pre-figured many later intellectual and methodological developments in social research especially in oral history and life history research, in feminist and working class history and in the kind of social research which privileges what we sometimes call the ‘ordinary person’ and the importance of studying everyday life” Professor Dorothy Sheridan, Mass Observation Archive.

I would particularly recommend these wartime finds:

(Originally published on Monday 30th March at blogger)