By using examples from food and domestic life in England during 1950, this paper examines the use of narrative archival sources as a methodological alternative to researching everyday food practices by traditional research methods, such as interviewing. Through the analysis of three diaries written for the Mass Observation Archive, and the everyday food practices expressed in these diaries, we consider the benefits and challenges of using narrative archival diary data to gain insights into food and eating during times of austerity. Before presenting and discussing the cases, we outline some of the challenges of researching food practices as a result of the muted, moral and mundane aspects of such practices. We then describe the study on which this paper is based, including a discussion of our methods and the reasons for using diaries and selecting our cases. Following this, we set the scene for understanding food and eating in 1950s Britain, such as contextual background about rationing during the Second World War, government policy and propaganda of the time. In our analysis of the three diaries, we discuss some of the ways in which the data have enabled us to 'get at' and provide insights into habitual food practices.
- Food practices
- Mass observation