Our Hidden Lives: The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain, 1945-1948

Our Hidden Lives The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain In anthropologist Tom Harrison poet and journalist Charles Madge and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings set up the Mass Observation Project The idea was simple ordinary people would record

  • Title: Our Hidden Lives: The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain, 1945-1948
  • Author: Simon Garfield
  • ISBN: 9780091896959
  • Page: 342
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In 1936 anthropologist Tom Harrison, poet and journalist Charles Madge and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings set up the Mass Observation Project The idea was simple ordinary people would record, in diary form, the events of their everyday lives An estimated one million pages eventually found their way to the archive and it soon became clear this was than anIn 1936 anthropologist Tom Harrison, poet and journalist Charles Madge and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings set up the Mass Observation Project The idea was simple ordinary people would record, in diary form, the events of their everyday lives An estimated one million pages eventually found their way to the archive and it soon became clear this was than anyone could digest Today, the diaries are stored at the University of Sussex, where remarkably most remain unread In Our Hidden Lives, Simon Garfield has skilfully woven a tapestry of diary entries in the rarely discussed but pivotal period of 1945 to 1948 The result is a moving, intriguing, funny, at times heartbreaking book unashamedly populist in the spirit of Forgotten Voices or indeed Margaret Forster s Diary of an Ordinary Woman.

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    About “Simon Garfield

    • Simon Garfield

      Simon Garfield is a British journalist and non fiction author He was educated at the independent University College School in Hampstead, London, and the London School of Economics, where he was the Executive Editor of The Beaver He also regularly writes for The Observer newspaper.

    501 thoughts on “Our Hidden Lives: The Everyday Diaries of a Forgotten Britain, 1945-1948

    • The Mass Observation Project was a somewhat lovely scheme instituted by the British government in the late 1930s. Basically they wanted to find out how normal people lived, to know their views and opinions. The purpose was to capture the life of the average man and woman, those who weren’t newsworthy and just made their way through generally unnoticed. Those in power came up with two ways of doing this. The first was to send researchers out onto the streets to ask questions about current event [...]


    • An excellent collection that goes a long way towards enlightening people on the ordinary lives of Brits sixty years ago. I hadn't realized just how long it took the UK to recover from the war, with the food shortages and coal shortages and power cuts and everything. The diarist B. Charles was pretty hard to like, what with all his nasty anti-Semitism claiming the Germans should have finished off the Jews and the world would never be right until someone had. But if that's the way people thought b [...]


    • This was amazing! I borrowed it from the library intending to dip into it, yet I read it cover to cover, all 500+ pages, in a matter of days.The book comprises the diary entries of five people made between 1945 and 1950, submitted to the Mass Observation Unit. The five individuals record the minutiae of their lives as well as their reflections on the difficulties of Britain immediately post-war and their worries about the future. More interesting than straight history and a better page-turner th [...]



    • Our Hidden Lives is a book with extracts from diaries submitted by people who took part in something called 'The Mass Observation Project', which was set up for the government(s) in Britain to get an idea of what the population really thought about things, what were their issues and concerns. Having received this book as a present, I was a bit disappointed to see the dates covered, as I thought that the diaries would cover the war years. This soon passed as I started to read the book and got to [...]


    • Absolutely compelling reading - such rich detail of every day lives in the first few years after the end of World War Two. Some of the diary entries made me pause in surprise (and shock occasionally) as I realised very little has changed, in terms of society, attitudes, and human nature. They could have been described the London I live in now, and some of the people in it. The only thing that's changed is technology. Highly recommended reading.


    • This book is absolutely brilliant. There are so many hilarious moments, especially from Herbert Brush, the bad-poetry writing allotment gardener. Maggie Joy Blunt is a really good writer and her diary contrasts well with the others who aren't quite as eloquent. Completely fascinating to get a glimpse into people's everyday lives.


    • Realy interesting look into life post WW2. It's sweet, funny, mundane and sometimes a bit racist. But, It's real. We might not like some of the views but that was how people though 60 years ago. I love Herbert Brush and wish he was my grandad. I acctually liked all the "characters", maybe not all the time but they are all great to read about.



    • A fascinating look at postwar Britain from five different diarists, chosen from the vast number accumulated by the Mass Observation Project. The diaries run from 1945-1948, and these five very different people all have their own views of what is happening to them and to the country. Elation at the end of the war gradually gives was to disillusionment about the shortages and restrictions and the continuing of rationing. Food looms large in all the diaries, the difficulty of obtaining most things, [...]


    • The more things change, the more they stay the same. It's crazy how the problems we face in 2017 are not dissimilar to those faced in 1947.


    • An interesting read, though depressing at times to see the level of racism and anti semitism that seemed to have been the norm.


    • Our Hidden LivesSimon Garfield941.0854 GARBorrowed from Taihape LibraryIn 1936 a programme called the Mass Observation Project was started and English people were invited to take part by keeping a diary about their lives, concerns and thoughts. Many took part and the resultant diaries are housed by the University of Surrey.This book records the entries of five of these diarists from VE Day to July 1948 and is a fascinating, compelling read as it covers the end of the Second World War, through ra [...]


    • Darren has had this book for a while and I picked it up whilst hankering after something more biographical to read than my usual fare. (I think Darren actually ended up listening to a radio adaption rather than reading it.) It is the interleaved diaries of five people covering the period just after the end of WWII. The diaries were written for a government initiated "Mass Observation" project started in the 1930s (and it seems it still goes on today) - the various characters included in the book [...]


    • This is a wonderful book, sharing the stories of five people who participated in the Mass-Observation Project immediately after the Second World War. The book covers the years 1945-1948 and provides amusing and poignant insights into how difficult life was at a time when most people hoped things would improve now that war was over. It also highlights a shocking amount of anti-semitism.One of the best aspects of Our Hidden Lives is the fascinating and often entertaining contrast with today's exis [...]


    • This is the only non-fiction book that would make it on to my top-ten shelf. It’s the carefully edited diaries of five ordinary Britons – all strangers to each other – which they agreed to keep for the Mass-Observation project that ran both during and after the second world war. This volume begins with the death of Hitler in 1945 and takes us through to the middle of 1948. When I started reading it I never imagined how engrossing it would become, especially considering how mundane many of [...]


    • I learned some things about this book, mostly about how hard things stayed for the Brits even after the WWII hostilities ended. And perhaps these very tough times even contributed greatly to the Socialist form of government that the Brits gravitated to after the war - some of that feeling is communicated in the near-daily diary entries of the individuals. But the book itself was a little too long and repetitive for my taste.


    • end of war and post war diaries of "normal" people. Some entries were mundane some v interesting. I saw q a lot of parallels with 2010 with anxieties over health service then and Obama's health bill in USA. also the pre election feeling mirrored some of modern feelings. People were far less PC back then which makes for uncomfortable remarks which would not be tolerated now.


    • Fascinating reading. I feel slightly bereft now I have finished reading these dairies and will miss the writers (well may be not B. Charles, but certainly Maggie and Edie). Interesting insights into life in post-war Britain too (I had no idea rationing went on for as long as it did after the war for instance).


    • I hardly ever give up on a book, but I'm afraid after the first 150 pages of this one, I couldn't face another 400. The entries are sweet and interesting, and quite often funny, but nothing much happens. I found that it became very repetitive and that unfortunately, my interest was not held enough to keep reading.


    • With parents who lived in the UK during and after the war, the title of this book was immediately appealing. It provided some insight into post war Britain and things my parents referred to as I grew up.


    • A peek into the lives and minds of regular British citizens during the second world war. I enjoyed it, but if you're not into reading diaries about regular people's lives, you may not want to get this.


    • Fascinating--diaries of several British people, documenting their lives during post-WWII. But long, very long. And no satisfying ending, since the diaries just stop. (The epilogue provides only the scarcest details, like those your bank might put together after you close your account.)


    • I was sorry when the book ended. The contributors were so different, and so revealing. An incredible portrait of post WWII Britain.




    • The book takes extracts from the diaries of several 'ordinary' people writing immediately following the end of WWII. It is very addictive.



    • Really interesting to read about the austerity measures and the perception of Churchill so soon after the war. Quite shocked by the level of antisemitism though.



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