War-time Social Survey Papers

Scope and Content

The papers illustrate the work of the Survey between April 1940 and July 1941. They include editorial reports, interviewers' special reports, topical reports by editors, and miscellaneous editorial and managerial documents.

Administrative / Biographical History

The War-time Social Survey was established in April 1940, under the auspices of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, to investigate questions of sociological importance. The staff, consisting of an editorial group of university personnel and a party of trained interviewers, was chosen by Arnold Plant, Professor of Commerce at London University. Among the Survey's earliest clients, however, were several government departments (the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Food, etc.), and before long the Survey was absorbed into the Home Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Information. From this time the work of the Survey broadened to include not only research into specific social and economic problems but also investigations of more general factors affecting public opinion and morale.

Concerned at the effects of this change in organization, in particular at the loss of independent scientific sponsorship, in August 1941 almost the entire body of staff resigned. Thereafter the Survey continued its work under the surveillance of the Ministry of Information and in closer accord with the needs of the Home Intelligence Division (see Public Record Office, INF 1/263, 273-281).

The work of the Survey within the Ministry was carried out in response to departmental directives. On instruction, the editors devised and arranged surveys and briefed interviewers. Interviewers, carrying printed questionnaires, investigated local opinion, and sent back to the editors records of their conversations and, on occasion, further explanatory reports. Using these returns, the editors compiled and issued to the appropriate departments their own final reports.

Access Information

The collection is available to all researchers upon proof of identity and acceptance of the terms and conditions of use. A few items, of a personal nature, are closed to inspection and are indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

Anonymous gift, 1966.

Ad.1 Gift of Miss S. Clement Brown OBE, October 1988.


Prepared by John Farrant, September 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Related Material

Papers of former staff of the War-time Social Survey, run under the auspices of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, are in:

SxMOA 17, War-time Social Survey, 1940-1941 (Frederick Brown)

SxMOA 18, War-time Social Survey, 1940-1941 (Mary Burns). See also:

SxMOA 4, Mary Adams Papers (Mary Adams was Director, Home Intelligence, Ministry of Information, 1939-41); and

SxMs 72, Charles Madge Archive (Madge was working at the National Institute for Economic and Social Research in 1940-42 on other sociological survey work).