About a year ago, I wrote a research paper on the royal wedding and its impact on the British public. My research consisted solely of reading people’s diary entries on the day and analyzing their attitude towards the young couple and their highly anticipated union.
But how did I manage to access the diary entries of people living in 1981? As my paper was on the most famous wedding of the twentieth century, that being Prince Charles’ and Lady Diana’s, I had to make use of a source that would provide me with access to primary resources three decades old.
Enter Observing the 80s. Observing the 80s is a digital project that collects the thoughts and emotions of British men and women, from a variety of social and regional backgrounds, regarding a number of significant events that took place in Britain during the 1980s. Using this website gave me access to a huge amount of information at my fingertips, and I could search through a vast array of primary resources with ease.
For me, the best part of the website is the fact that the authenticity of the primary resources has been maintained. I could actually read diary entries in the handwriting of the people who wrote them, and I found that immensely enjoyable. Looking at sources like these, as opposed to reading facts in a textbook for example, makes history seem so much closer than it normally does, and makes the connection between the present and the past more tangible somehow. I find myself revisiting the site from time to time, just to remind myself that the past is really not as far behind as I’d like to think it is.
One of my papers has been published on the Observing the 80s website. You can access it here.