The meanings of happiness in Mass Observation's Bolton

Gazeley, Ian and Langhamer, Claire (2012) The meanings of happiness in Mass Observation's Bolton. History Workshop Journal, 75 (1). pp. 159-189. ISSN 1363-3554

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In April 1938, the social investigative organization, Mass Observation conducted an inquiry into the happiness of Bolton people. In this article we analyse the letters and questionnaire responses generated through a competition that asked, ‘What is happiness?’ We examine the extent to which these competition entrants were representative of Bolton population and conclude that they were broadly representative in terms of occupation and sex, but less so in terms of social class.

We describe the factors which according to competition entrants determined individual happiness. These were remarkably stable across age groups and gender. Economic security emerged as the dominant consideration, whilst personal pleasure was represented as playing little part in generating happiness. A detailed analysis of the happiness letters and questionnaires suggests that introspective and relational factors were also important determinants of well-being. We demonstrate that these introspective factors were framed by an individual’s personal moral framework and that relational factors were under-pinned by gendered conceptions of domestic happiness

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Depositing User: Ian Gazeley
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2013 08:41
Last Modified: 21 May 2013 10:12
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