TEMPORALITIES, RITUAL, AND DRINKING IN MASS OBSERVATION'S WORKTOWN

JENNIE TAYLOR, SIMON PRINCE
2020 The Historical Journal  
In Bolton's pubs at the end of the 1930s, the research organization Mass Observation pursued answers to big abstract questions about time by studying small concrete actions. Drawing on field notes, draft manuscripts, and published works, this article sets out the different understandings and experiences of time documented by the team of investigators. Outside the 'time-clock factory-whistle dimension of living' and inside 'pub-time', individuals bought drinks for their companions, drank at the
more » ... ions, drank at the same pace, and engaged with everyone around them on an equal footing. Mass Observation presented such behaviours as proof that the pub fostered a socially harmonious, egalitarian community from a pre-industrial age. However, this article shows that the pub study's archive contains material that goes against the published findings. Observers turned in reports about authoritarian conduct, hierarchical power structures, and the intrusion of contemporary politics. Blurring the research subject and object, it was sometimes the investigators themselves who broke the spell of the pub. These moments of tension, confusion, and contradiction offer insights into the observers' own perspectives on modern temporalities and subjective experiences of time. All the people in the pubs were caught up in a state of flux.
doi:10.1017/s0018246x20000461 fatcat:ueta52jwvvhevd4tilnshi5744