A newly rediscovered gem from the Mass Observation archive.
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.
Claire Langhamer is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Sussex and a Trustee of the Mass-Observation Archive. She has written on women's leisure, courtship and bigamy, happiness, children, domesticity and emotional politics. Her most recent book was The English in Love. The Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution (OUP, 2013); her next will be Feelings at Work in Modern Britain (also OUP). She came to Brighton from East Yorkshire, via Manchester.
Hester Barron is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Sussex. Her first book was The 1926 Miners' Lockout. Meanings of Community in the Durham Coalfield (OUP, 2010). She has since published extensively on the history of childhood and education in modern Britain and is currently completing a monograph to be published by MUP, Classroom and Community: Elementary education in London, 1918-39. She grew up in Durham but now lives in Hurstpierpoint, a village near Brighton, with her family.