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Puzzled People

Jan Swafford
Date Published
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Mass Observation was founded by Tom Harrisson, Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings in 1937. Its purpose was to create ‘an anthropology of ourselves’ in other words, to study the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. Discounting an initial pamphlet, this was the fourteenth book to be published. It appears in Faber Finds as a part of an extensive reissue programme of the original Mass Observation titles.

The lengthy sub-title explains the purpose of the book: A Study in popular attitudes to religion, ethics, progress and politics in a London Borough. In more detail, one can quote from the first chapter of the book. ‘This book is an attempt to show the puzzledness of ordinary people about some of the main stabilities of the past, especially religion. The basic framework is a random sample cross-section of 500 interviews with the inhabitants of a London semi-suburban borough, Metrop, supplemented by informal conversations with others on various topics under discussion, by investigations among Mass-Observation’s National Panel of Observers (who answer written questions by post), by talks with Metrop clergymen and youth leaders, and by a consideration of voluminous related material already on our files. It is not a technical book and we have tried to present the facts as simply as possible without excessive methodological discussion.’

The book was first published in 1947 on behalf of The Ethical Union.

Mass Observation was founded in 1937 by Tom Harrission, Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings. Its purpose was to create an ‘anthropology of ourselves’, in other words, to provide a study of the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain. In its first period, from 1937 to 1950, it published twenty-two books, many of which are being reissued in Faber Finds.…

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