16th April 2020

Science Coronavirus: WW2-style study of everyday lives launched

Science Coronavirus: WW2-style study of everyday lives launched


Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionContributor Ellie Griffiths: “We’re in a very big part of history right now”

A mass observation study inspired by World War Two research will document everyday lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

It will look at social media posts, diaries and video entries.

In the original study, a UK-wide panel of volunteer writers did regular questionnaires and wrote diaries.

Swansea University’s Michael Ward, who is leading the new study, said he wanted to understand how we were reacting to the outbreak as a society.

He said there was a “real need” for a social study of how people were reacting to the crisis, to “help plan for future outbreaks”.

“There’s a lack of social science research into what people are experiencing, to understand the pressures people are under at the moment,” he said.

Dr Ward has called on volunteers from all backgrounds to submit regular diary entries – whether as written accounts, video diaries or even social media posts.

During and after World War Two, a national panel of volunteer writers were recruited to reply to regular questionnaires and tasks, including writing diaries.

These are now in the University of Sussex’s archive.

Image copyright
University of Sussex

Image caption

This Cafe Royal menu from 1942 and diary entry from 1944 are among documents in the University of Sussex’s Archives

Dr Ward has had entries from 80 people for the new study so far, and says he has seen a generational difference in how people experience lockdown and social distancing rules.

He said: “Younger people seem to be missing the ability to go out when they want, because of the restrictions.

“Whereas older people seem to be missing the opportunity to be with people that they regularly see, like grandchildren.”

He added another trend was that people felt “a kind of judgement in the street” and that, while people valued being able to go out, it often brought “feelings of depression or anxiety”.

Dr Ward said he was struck by “how much fear is out there.”

Image copyright
University of Sussex/The Mass Observation Archive

Image caption

Nella Last kept a diary throughout World War Two for the Mass Observation Archive

Ellie Griffiths, a 19-year-old sociology student at Swansea University, is taking part in the project. She writes a diary “almost daily”.

She said the first-hand accounts of what life was like during World War Two were “invaluable to us now”, and that accounts of life during the coronavirus crisis will be needed in the future.

She said: “It’s easy to forget that we’re in a very big part of history right now, so I do think it’s very important to journal it.”

Miss Griffiths lives with her father, Steven Griffiths in rural Carmarthenshire.

Her grandparents, Brian Griffiths, 73, and Christine Griffiths, 72, live next door.

They have found a letter written to Miss Griffith’s great-grandfather Ron Griffiths, who worked for the ambulance service during the World War Two.

Image copyright
Ellie Griffiths

Image caption

A letter sent to Ron Griffiths from a friend during World War Two

Reading the letter her great-grandfather received from a friend after they were both back on “civvy street”, Miss Griffiths was struck by the similarities between what he was going through and what people are experiencing now.

The letter says: “I was hoping to meet up with you” for a pint.

“Not in a million years would he be receiving this, thinking his great-granddaughter would not only be reading it, but relating it to something like this going on,” Miss Griffiths said.

“Me and my friends can’t wait to go for a beer as well.”

She added: “Even the most insignificant things now may in 10 years be like, ‘Wow, that’s actually a really important thing that happened’.”

Image copyright
Ellie Griffiths

Image caption

Ellie Griffiths has been inspired by her great-grandfather’s war records, letters and photos


Home Terms Of Use Contact Us Affiliate Disclosure DMCA Earnings Disclaimer