The innovative social-research organization Mass-Observation was founded in 1937 by three men:Tom Harrisson, ornithologist and anthropologist , the English surrealist and documentary filmmaker, Humphrey Jennings and the communist poet and Daily Mirror reporter, Charles Madge . This book explores the true extent and significance of the special role of Mass-Observation, with its unique formula of observation of the masses by the masses for the masses, in the formation of postwar Britain's idea of itself. .
The reason for Mass-Observation's unprecedented success was its pioneering interdisciplinary approach. The co-founders were amongst the technically minded professionals that George Orwell described as most at home in the classless mass society emerging in Britain during the late 1930s. The work they initiated has produced the most extensive collection of everyday life material in the world and is now a major resource for social historians.
This study situates Mass-Observation within the historical and theoretical contexts of everyday life in the long twentieth century. By showing in detail how they combined poetical perception and surrealist inspiration with political purpose and anthropological understanding - and so changed a nation - it demonstrates how a mass movement can transform society.