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Our Hidden Lives: The Remarkable Diaries of Post-War Britain

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  231 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
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 that this was more tha ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Ebury Press (first published 2004)
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Mar 23, 2015 F.R. rated it really liked it
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 events ...more
Apr 05, 2016 Philippa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
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.
Nov 19, 2011 Meaghan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Sep 23, 2011 Christine rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 01, 2014 Colin rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mar 05, 2011 Dennie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
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.
Apr 29, 2008 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
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.
Ellie Stevenson
Dec 29, 2013 Ellie Stevenson rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography
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
Jamie Trecker
Fascinating. And sad. Read it.
Feb 28, 2008 Carey rated it really liked it
reality tv for the ww2 era.
Kirsty Darbyshire
Dec 07, 2010 Kirsty Darbyshire rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-book

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

Marjorie Doole
Nov 15, 2011 Marjorie Doole rated it really liked it
Our Hidden Lives
Simon Garfield
941.0854 GAR
Borrowed from Taihape Library

In 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
Jan Bailey
Feb 08, 2016 Jan Bailey rated it liked it
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.
Michael Gallagher
Feb 18, 2013 Michael Gallagher rated it really liked it
Shelves: top-twelve-reads
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 the en ...more
Rebecca Pete
Apr 21, 2016 Rebecca Pete rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Fascinatingly, compellingly mundane. A symphony of the ordinary, and motivation enough to keep up your own diary. 3.5/5
Apr 30, 2011 Brian rated it liked it
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.
Feb 10, 2014 Coyney rated it it was amazing
Love these sort of books
Jan 20, 2016 Hannah rated it it was amazing
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).
Sarah Cubitt
May 07, 2011 Sarah Cubitt rated it it was ok
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.
Dec 31, 2009 Cissy rated it really liked it
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.)
May 23, 2013 Gordon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's too long for me. I enjoyed most of it, but just ran out of interest. Some characters were more interesting than others (I would happily read the diary of B Charles). It does say 'an everyday diary' on the cover, so I shouldn't complain, so I won't. I just got bored.
Carsten Boll
Aug 29, 2012 Carsten Boll rated it liked it
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.
Mar 31, 2008 Heather rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 25, 2008 Chet rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History and Biography Readers
Recommended to Chet by: Sue
Never realized the difficulties in post war Britan with the economy, Palestine and emergence of The Labor Party. I so enjoyed the book that I have ordered the other two in the series.
Nov 29, 2010 Ali rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Nov 13, 2010 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
The book takes extracts from the diaries of several 'ordinary' people writing immediately following the end of WWII. It is very addictive.
May 09, 2012 Joanne rated it it was amazing
I was sorry when the book ended. The contributors were so different, and so revealing. An incredible portrait of post WWII Britain.
Feb 19, 2013 Christina rated it it was ok
I only liked two of the journal entry writers. I didn't finish the book because I was so annoyed at the other writers who wrote more often.
Jul 15, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Mass Observation diaries - always fascinating but even more so when covering Sheffield contributors.
Barbara Mader
Mar 19, 2011 Barbara Mader rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
Another interesting book of excerpts chosen from the Mass Observation journals.
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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.
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