The Class of ’37


The Mass Observation Archive’s first project was embedded field work in Bolton and as part of this, a project was undertaken with a group of 41 girls at Pikes Lane Elementary School. In ‘The Class of ’37’, accomplished contemporary historians Hester Barron and Claire Langhamer rediscover the words, personalities and worlds of these 12-14-year-olds, the last generation to leave school before the Second World War, and to finish school at the age of fourteen. With them we will discover how the girls’ vibrant, articulate and passionate writing on everything from their homes, the Royal Family (this was Coronation year) and their futures, over the course of hundreds of original essays, can speak to us across the decades. Yet if their childhoods ended before the horrors of war and the salve of the welfare state – two of the defining events of the twentieth century – their adult lives would be shaped by both.

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It is 1937 in a northern mill-town and a class of twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls are writing about their lives, their world, and the things that matter to them. They tell of cobbled streets and crowded homes; the Coronation festivities and holidays to Blackpool; laughter and fun alongside poverty and hardship. They are destined for the cotton mill but they dream of being film stars. Class of ’37 uses the writing of these young girls, as collected by the research organisation Mass Observation, to rediscover this lost world, transporting readers back in time to a smoky industrial town in an era before the introduction of a Welfare State, where once again the clouds of war were beginning to gather. Woven within this rich, authentic history are the twists and turns of the girls’ lives from childhood to beyond, from their happiest times to the most heart-breaking of their sorrows. A compelling social history, this intimate reconstruction of working-class life in 1930s Britain is a haunting and emotional account of a bygone age.

Additional information

Weight 0.431 kg
Dimensions 22 × 15 × 3 cm










305.2352094273709043 (edition:23)


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