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The Mass Observation Diaries with Penny Summerfield and Dorothy Sheridan

The Mass Observation Archive

Friday, 2 May 2014 from 13:30 to 17:00 (BST)

The Mass Observation Diaries with Penny Summerfield and...

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General Admission Ended £5.22 £1.20

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Event Details

This event comprises of two talks by Penny Summerfield and Dorothy Sheridan along with a chance to look at some original diaries from the Mass Observation Archive. 

Historians and the Diary: speaking for others and blurring boundaries
Penny Summerfield, University of Manchester


Penny will be reviewing the ways that social and cultural historians have used the diary as a historical source. Such historians value diaries for the intimate glimpses of everyday life that they offer, but they vary in their concerns with the ‘representativeness’ and ‘reliability’ of diaries as historical sources. For some it is important to be able to claim that the diarists they use are representative of the population they are studying and so speak not just for themselves but for the collectivity to which they belong. Others determinedly embrace the exceptionality of the diarist. Historians also vary in their approach to reliability, especially to the issue of whether a diary is more reliable the more ‘private’ it is, raising a number of questions relating to the private/public boundary. How do historians view the shaping of diaries by public discourses and the effects of intended (and unintended) audiences on diary-writing? And in any case how secure is the boundary between the private and the public? Some historians suggest that the concept of ‘privacy’ is not a universal and that on close scrutiny many seemingly private diaries, not least those written for Mass Observation, blur the boundary.

Penny is Professor of Modern History at the University of Manchester. She is currently working on a book about historians’ uses of personal testimony. She has worked extensively with both oral history and Mass Observation in her research on the social and cultural history of the Second World War.

Editing a diary for publication: the pleasures and pitfalls
Dorothy Sheridan, University of Sussex and Mass Observation Archive Trustee


In the second talk, Dorothy will talk about the process of making a diary public, drawing on her own experience as editor of Among You Taking Notes: the wartime diary of Naomi Mitchison 1939-45. She will explore her own relationship with the diary-writer during the editing process, and raise some ethical and practical questions about investments, privacy, shared authorship and diary research.

Dorothy is a Trustee of the Mass Observation Archive and an Honorary Professor of History at the University of Sussex. Her research interests include the use of life histories and she is a founding member of the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research at Sussex.

Do you have questions about The Mass Observation Diaries with Penny Summerfield and Dorothy Sheridan? Contact The Mass Observation Archive

When & Where


The Keep
Woollards Way
Brighton, East Sussex BN1 9BP

Friday, 2 May 2014 from 13:30 to 17:00 (BST)


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Organiser

The Mass Observation Archive

The Mass Observation Archive specialises in material about everyday life in Britain. It contains papers generated by the original Mass Observation social research organisation (1937 to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981. The Archive is a charitable trust in the care of the University of Sussex. It is housed at The Keep as part of the University's Special Collections

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