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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 first book to be published. It appears in Faber Finds as a part of an extensive reissue programme of the original Mass Observation titles.
May the Twelfth is a portrait of life on a single day, the day of the Coronation of George V1 in 1937. Compiled from the individual reports of hundreds of people, the Mass Observers, from all walks of life, it vividly recreates the atmosphere and excitement of a great national occasion.
When first published it received a long review from Evelyn Waugh in the short-lived Night and Day. One might have imagined it wouldn’t have been to his taste but he was won round. Having congratulated Faber on the price of 12s 6d he goes on to say, ‘. . . it would be hard to find any recent work of the same length which had so little that was dull and so much that was highly amusing.’ He especially praises the London section, ‘The succeeding section on London’s May 12 could scarcely be better. It provides a real documentary survey of the event as seen by the crowds.’
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