“No one is going to get cakes and ale…”: it’s alive!


Blog #6

My digital project is completed! I feel like I should throw some confetti in the air or get some of those noise makers. But I’ll settle for this post.

You can visit the page for yourself: “No one is going to get cakes and ale…”: Women’s Perceptions of Food Rationing in WWII

I don’t have much left to say about the project, mainly because I’ve spent a lot of time going over the nitty gritty of it in the past three months on this blog. And once you get on the page it’s fairly self-explanatory. The whole site is structured and organized in a traditional way. All-in-all, I think it turned out pretty well! I like the right sidebar that allowed me to guide users to subsequent pages and that it wasn’t too much of a headache to get rid of things that were useless on the template (particularly the contact and comment sections).

Home page

Regarding content, I was very glad to be able to base the site off of a previous paper that I wrote last spring. It certainly made it easier for me to deal with a topic I knew a lot about and already had most of my primary sources digitized for (especially regarding the 23-pages of Mass-Observation material). This was definitely a lifesaver in this past month in dealing more with my comprehensive exams (I passed!) so that I had the research behind me and could focus on studying and putting the site together when it was more convenient for me.

I actually did not mind the coding aspect of the project as much as I thought I would, it was a lot easier than it seemed at first (the technical jargon was what made it seem scarier than it actually was). Building the whole website has helped me examine prose more critically as well as helped weed down my narrative when I’m being too wordy. Using the digital tools also offer something completely different from a normal paper or monograph, such as text analysis, an interactive timeline with documents, and the ArcGIS map, letting users interact with the tools and shape their own experience with a subject. Providing a digitized archive of the primary materials used is also a great opportunity that lets a user explore the documents used free of charge on their own initiative. I really appreciated being able to add in the propaganda posters as well, as I didn’t use these in my previous paper and they’re very useful to better understand women’s experience with rationing.

Propaganda page

I am greatly relieved to finally be done with this project that gave me such worry earlier in the semester. I’m also ECSTATIC to be done with my Master’s! It feels very fitting to end my MA career with this project, which has helped give me a few extra skills along with all my other useful skills like quoting The Office and Parks and Recreation. Oh, and of historical subjects (primarily Britain and America during WWI and WWII). But, I’m done! So, in the words of Albus Dumbledore,

“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

Edit, 12/18: I updated my sources page this morning because I realized, silly me, I had the wrong publication year for the Geoffrey Field book! I also updated the Sources.html file in the Box.


Ready to go!

Blog #5

Things are moving, moving, moving as the end of the semester–nay, the end of my MA career–reaches critical mass. Is that the right terminology? I honestly have no idea…

This post should be brief, mainly because I’ve got to get back to studying for my comprehensive exams (have I scared anyone yet?) and I haven’t had a lot of problems with my website recently. Work on the site has been steady, as I’ve been adding in bits and pieces during work (which is pretty low-key) and while watching Doctor Who over Thanksgiving weekend. I’ve got my propaganda page up with all the images on there to see and explanations of select posters and “Food Facts,” with the rest ready to be explored. Great!

I’m now working on the text analysis portion of the site and can I just say that I really only like the word clouds for my project? I don’t understand the other tools other than the keywords in context and, trust me, I tried using them. (Really, I did!) I didn’t see the point of the word web thing and the bubblelines tool made absolutely no sense to me. I could not for the life of me figure out what all the pretty colors meant and the word clouds were the only thing that made sense to my brain and for comparison to the other documents. Other tools didn’t work even work in my browser. (Was it just me?) I actually had an insane amount of word clouds at first due to the number of corpi I had–about 16 or 17, I think, so I had to create a separate page for newspapers and then one for women’s writings and Mass Observation, but that didn’t create a lot of difficulties, I just added another link on my drop-down menu on every page and it was good to go (and I weeded out a few of the clouds as well–16 was a lot!). I’ve gone through and explained each individual cloud on its own and at some point (soon? when my comps are over at the end of this week?) I’ll be working on bringing everything back together again.

Word Cloud for Vere Hodgson’s Diary

I’m very familiar with the diaries and Mass Observation, so comparing those clouds to the ones for the newspapers is not difficult. I’ve deduced, much as from just reading the sources as from the word clouds, that women’s writings and the Mass Observation responses to surveys were much more personal than the newspapers. This is probably a fairly obvious statement. Duh! Of course they’re more personal, it’s women writing about FOOD–something that affected their daily lives. How could it not be personal?

Word Cloud for the Times, 1942

But providing this comparison is important, as it shows how deeply women were affected by the food situation in contrast with how newspapers reported on it–much more in relation to policy changes and distribution hiccups. A lot drier by comparison, although I’m sure the writers of the Times did their best to grab the attention of their readers. But the diaries provide a much more human aspect to rationing that is only present in the letters to the editor, sent in by women to the paper regarding their lives. See what I’m going for here? It’s about lived experience. Great, okay!

Anyway, I really like the word clouds, I guess because they made the most sense to me (and actually work) and I like the points of comparison they offer to the other clouds without confusing users. I’ve also included links for my transcriptions of the corpus below the explanations on the site, which I will include on the “Sources” page as well to keep things organized, with a static png of the clouds in case the Voyant site has a freak attack again and stops working. Lovely.

Other than the text analysis, I need to work on the conclusion page and also hyperlink all my parenthetical citations throughout the site to go to the “Sources” page, which I’ve started working on. Another easy task I can do when I want to take a break from studying for exams. And then, of course, upload everything onto the server. No problemo. I feel like everything is really coming together, which is great as my MA D-Day gets closer and closer!

Well, back to studying while I can!

I made a map!

An extra post because I finished it!

So last week I visited the GIS lab and got help from Angie with the map for my project. I showed her my tiny table for the nine women I have actual locations for, as everyone else was either nameless or without a location attached to them, and she helped me set up this map through ArcGIS that I played with a little bit after I got home via ArcGIS Online.GIS Map

There isn’t a whole lot of data attached to these nine women, just their class, marital status, rural or urban designators, and occupation, but I’m pleased with the way it turned out and I’ve embedded it into the proper page now on my template. That page also has tiny biographies for each woman with extra information not included in the table, but I had more information for some than others, so I was fairly brief in this section. I also included a quote for each woman for her views on food rationing, which will lead into the later text analysis, particularly for the larger corpi of the three diarists: Nella Last, Clara Milburn, and Vere Hodgson. When I get to the text analysis, I intend to link their diaries (that I’ve transcribed) to the bios on the mapping page in PDF form.

The map gives a spatial element to my project, but I’m not really sure where to go from there with it. As you can see from the map legend, the color-coding refers to the urban and rural spaces, which I plan to explain below the map, although differences are a bit…hairy. Allegedly, if you were in the city you had greater access to canteens (cheaper and off-ration) and restaurants (if you had enough money). But if you were in rural areas it was supposed that you could raise chickens for more eggs or have bigger gardens. HOWEVER, this was a bit of a strawman’s argument, as the Department of Ag and Ministry of Food teamed up to push the idea of “Digging for Victory,” where families and individuals could have garden allotments in order to grow seasonal vegetables and supplement their food rations and take some strain off of the import situation. And if households in rural areas kept more than a certain number of livestock/crops for this purpose, the Ministry of Food could LEGALLY claim a portion of their produce or eggs or whatever. The impact of greater government control in a total war. So, in actuality, rural and urban differences, while they were real, weren’t always of consequence and still largely depended on a person’s income level rather than their location. I’m going to include a discussion on that as well, but with the idea of “fair shares” intending to equalize a minimum standard of food consumption, rural and urban distinctions weren’t as important–income was actually a bigger determinant. Unfortunately for my selection of women, I don’t know enough about their financial situations (only knowing their general class level–another hazy subject) to analyze the effect of food rationing on them and most of them fall in the fairly broad middle class bracket (only one is lower class).

Still, I like the map because you can see that the corpi that I’ve collected (these locations are of three diarists and women from my four anthologies) have women from all over Britain, and including a quote on food rationing from each woman will also help pinpoint her general thoughts on the subject. For the diarists, linking to the actual documents works, but the women from the anthologies isn’t as practical because some of them only have a few entries, so there isn’t much to show in terms of actual text. Plus, we’ll delve deeper into that on the text analysis page, but I like that this is coming along. It provides a nice relief to work on this in balance with studying for comps (*hyperventilates*).

Let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or suggestions for the map!

Eat Your Vegetables!: Recipes and other updates

Blog #4

Is it time for another blog post? I think so…

One of the surprising finds of last two weeks–recipes from the London Times! During my project prototype presentation, a question was asked about recipes and my brain was whirling in 5 seconds trying to remember–Had I seen any recipes? Do I have any books that actually have recipes in them? I knew the Ministry of Food created recipes and published them for women, but after my debacle with the National Archives, I didn’t want to tread down that path again, so I gave a pretty unsatisfactory answer. And then I had a better thought at a later time–NEWSPAPERS. Obviously the Ministry of Food would be able to reach a larger audience through the Times and other British papers, but I hadn’t seen any recipes in my preliminary searches through their database, so I was at a loss. And then I realized it was because I hadn’t looked in the proper way–by actually looking for the word “recipe” within the correct time period. Amazing, right? So a slew of items came up in my search, and the big kahuna of them all was a Ministry of Food sponsored publication in the paper–Food Facts–with the Ministry’s logo on it and everything!
Ministry of Food, Food Facts Oct 1941Food Facts were created and published by the Ministry of Food to guide consumers–especially housewives–in purchasing rationed foods and navigating austerity. This meant pushing new foods on Lend-Lease, like SPAM (yum!) and dried eggs, as well as homegrown things that weren’t rationed and were more easily obtained–VEGETABLES. The Brits were more likely to fill up on butter, bread, and tea than eat their veggies, things that were in short supply when imports were cut off from the Continent. The Ministry even came up with a few cartoon characters to get kids interested in eating their veggies, Dr. Carrot and Potato Pete. They even tried to get people to eat more carrots (a homegrown item) by telling them it would help to see better in the blackout! Which was only slightly true, and probably only if you ate so many carrots you started to turn orange.

In my perusal of the Times database of Food Facts, I’ve come across a lot of recipes like this one for fresh salted cod dishes. Now, why would the Ministry of Food need to tell women how to make salted cod? Well, I’ve come across in my reading that the British weren’t especially fond of salted cod, although their aversion to it is not like their disdain for whale meat (why they’re so against whale meat, I don’t understand, since the British eat offal–organ meat, ick!–but I digress), but it was a challenge to get them to purchase new and seemingly exotic things. So the Ministry had to provide helpful ideas so that housewives could incorporate new foods into their diets–theoretically.

At this point I have about fifteen Food Facts with recipes (and one cartoon of a younger woman showing her grandmother how to cook cabbage–very exotic), but I’m not sure how to incorporate these into my website. As you can see from this one, the look of the thing is quite interesting by itself, so perhaps using them as images along with my Ministry of Food posters is an idea. I have transcriped the recipes and advice contained in them (full disclosure–while watching Doctor Who on Saturday nights), but I don’t know how useful text analysis will be for these, as none of my diarists or anthology sources directly mention any food recipes from the MoF other than “soups” or “cakes” and that sort of thing. Having an insane amount of recipes seemed superfluous when I’m examining women and their experiences of food rationing, rather than producing a history of the Ministry of Food’s propaganda and they don’t even mention recipes. Likely an explanation of the image would accompany it as it rest in a sort of database with the other images, although a comparison with other propaganda seems useful, too. I used Adobe to convert the PDFs of the Food Facts to images, rather than make a bunch of screenshots of them, as I did with the image above. It doesn’t exactly make for the most hi-resolution jpeg, but it does it’s job for now.

FF May 1941_Page_1Here’s another image, just for fun, to highlight the illustrious Potato Pete jumping over a fence at the bottom of the article. According to the Ministry of Food, potatoes were one of the foods that you could fill up on without getting fat–an interesting concept considering the fact that they suggested all sorts of ways to cook the potato: from baking, to frying in reused fat dripping, to boiling. But, I guess if your diet was already slashed to meager portions, starchy foods like potatoes wouldn’t hurt the figure too much. Although this one doesn’t have an particular recipes to offer, it does give housewives loads of suggestions, such as reminders of how to make suet crust (for mutton fat), to save extra fat for cooking, and to not waste food, a criminal offense during austerity. At one point, one of our diarists, Vere Hodgson, fed some crusts of bread to some pigeons and she feared Lord Woolton, the Minister of Food, would pop out of the bushes and arrest her for wasting this food! An oddly terrifying, but comical, thought, to see Lord Woolton appearing from behind a bush in his bowler hat, ready to arrest you for feeding some birds.

Other developments of the past week: I have a template! Last weekend, I was perusing the free-css site looking for something that would float my boat, that wasn’t too hideous (seriously, who makes some of these?), or needed a lot of changes and I found a few that I sort of liked, so I thought I’d take those to the lab and play with them in Dreamweaver at the beginning of the week just to see what happened. However, these all were WAY too complicated for my brain, as they all had JavaScript and J Query craziness that I was not keen on looking into, so I was in a tight spot for something that was straight html since I at least know how to tinker with that a little bit. And, in my frantic search looking for a basic (preferably blue–my favorite color) template, I found something!

Here's a screenshot of the home page for my template, just to give you an idea. Pretty basic and to the point, but blue!!
Here’s a screenshot of the home page for my template, just to give an idea of what it looks like. Pretty basic and to the point, but blue!!

It was clearly built for a business with its comment sections and massive “Contact Us” form that I’ve gotten rid of, but it doesn’t look half bad! I’ve been in the process of writing up the content that will go on the various pages, and so far I have four pages filled out and mostly ready to go, the home page, basic background on the war with the timeline, food policy, and women’s experiences. I figured out how to upload what I have so far onto the server, and the links for the four pages so far actually work and there are pictures and everything–some embedded, some are called through the style sheet. At any rate, it’s coming along, which is fantastic since last week I was worried about my own skills when it comes with html and messing with a template to make it look like what I want. Luckily I liked the one I found enough (it’s blue!) that I don’t have to do much to it, just delete the useless things like a comments section, add more tabs in the navigation, and make the pages as I go. Definitely a win in my book.

This past Thursday I also stopped by the GIS department in the library and got some help from Angie with my map, which I was using ArcGIS Online to make. I have the locations loaded for my nine women and they’re basically just defined by their urban or rural locations, as this was the easiest point of difference (rather than class since most of them were middle class and it gets a bit murky anyway). At this point I’m not finished, as it still needs to be played with a bit in terms of look, but I’m glad that the locations are in there and the actual information for the map is ready to go! Whew.

For now, I’ll be focusing on making the pages for my website and getting all the content on them and then turning to the text analysis using Voyant. For the propaganda images, I like the idea of displaying the posters on the page rather than just the links for them, but I might have to modify this if I can’t find an easy way to get all the posters, cartoons, and food facts up and still readable without them being huge. I think a smaller image linked to its corresponding image file in my FileZilla folder is the best bet, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. (Does anyone ever understand my Downton Abbey references?)

Anyway, I’ve got a pretty full schedule ahead in this next month with my exams to prepare for, so time to get back to it!

The Death of a Prototype

Blog Post #3

Woman drinking tea during the London Blitz, 1940
Woman drinking tea during the London Blitz, 1940: This photo has nothing to do with my project–it’s from the Blitz on London, but I feel like it partly represents my life right now. Grad student drinking tea on a pile or rubble. The rubble is probably made of books.

Sometimes you start a blog post, think you’ve saved your progress on it, only to come back two hours later to find you only have 200 words written (when you had about 400 when you ended) and–that’s right–you actually published your uncompleted draft! I’d like to thank my sleep-deprivation for that one. That’s why, if you got a notification or saw a post and then it disappeared (how mysterious!), I’m sorry, mistakes have been made. Always hit “save draft” when you, in fact, want to save the draft. A strange concept, I know, but sometimes those buttons at the bottom look the same. Okay, just this one time.

So last night we started presentations on our “Pecha Kuchas” or project prototypes–20 slides, 20 seconds per slide. Here are the slides if you’d like to take a look, or forgot what was on them–they go by fast: Pecha Kucha Slides (okay, so there are 21 with the title slide, so sue me). I really think the concept of the 20 slides, 20 seconds a slide is a nice, but also horribly stressful idea. What I desperately wanted while practicing my presentation was to be able to SEE a timer, which wouldn’t happen unless the computer was hooked up to a projector or another monitor, so my timing got off. Luckily, during class the presenter view was working, allowing me to see the countdown, but I don’t know if it made the stress worse or not. It’s nice to be succinct, but a few more seconds would have be nice on a couple of the slides.

The process of making my pecha kucha was fairly straightforward. I knew I wanted to spend a good portion of time on my sources, that way everyone would know what I was working with and what was out there in terms of women writing about their lives during the Second World War and what additional sources I had pulled. So I’ve got my slides on the three diaries, anthologies, newspapers, and rationing posters, as well as Mass-Observation that make up the bulk of my sources. Contextualization of rationing is important, which I’ll go in to greater detail on my website, but I talked a little about the Ministry of Food, the government body that determined and controlled food policy throughout the war (and beyond) and then how important women were to the implementation of food policy, especially as housewives. The other day I was looking at one of my secondary sources (for comprehensive exams, actually, not class) and saw the statistic that an astounding number of 8.8 million, or about 55%, adult women were full-time housewives during the war!* Clearly such a large number of women as part of the population played a vital part in carrying out food policy, and the Ministry of Food was very aware of this fact.

Another good portion of my slides deals with the tools I’ll be using on my website: Timeglider to make a timeline, Voyant for text analysis, mapping the location of the women diarists and those in the anthologies, and charts and graphs of women’s opinions and other quantitative data available from Mass-Observation. Due to a shortage of time (and slides), I didn’t include that I’ll also have a section with my sources and the final conclusions I’ll draw from all of this analysis and whatnot, but those things will be on the website.

I think what I liked most about the process of putting all the slides together and finding pictures that corresponded to the topics/sources I discussed (which was sometimes a challenge in and of itself–what represents “fair shares”?) was that it allowed for the chance to organize my work and data in a non-narrative, but obviously still linear fashion, which is similar, but also different from a website. While all the slides are connected at just one point, the website will allow the different pages to all be connected with each other via the sidebar navigation (or wherever the site navigator is on the template that I end up using). Finding a cohesive way to create the presentation let me think about how different units of the project go together and how many of them are linked to one another, not just in the site navigator, but also through what they are (a source or a way of analyzing the source) and topically as well. As someone who has little problem being verbose in a written format, condensing a topic into a 7-minute presentation also forces you to be succinct about what actually matters. What’s important to my project? What do people need to know in order to get the gist of it across? And I think that was a particularly useful exercise. This short presentation allows for the creation of the bare bones, a structure to build something more coherent and meaningful off of.

Everything else is detail.

*Geoffrey Field, Blood, Sweat, and Toil: Remaking the British Working Class, 1939-1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 131.

Making Progress, or Plodding Along

Blog post #2

Work has been fairly steady on my project (see below if you’ve forgotten the topic), although I have hit one roadblock. A few weeks ago I sent in an online request to the National Archives in Surrey about a few of their files on the Ministry of Food (which aren’t digitized, drat), just to see what would (or would not) come back. After filling out my forms for digital copies of whatever it was I was requesting (a serious lack of information is available on those files, by the way), a few weeks passed and last week I finally heard back about the dreaded costs. All-in-all, the four items I had requested (and have no idea how large they are) would cost me in the range of £500. Yikes! So I politely declined further use of the archive at this point in time, but at least that cost is cheaper than a flight to England. Although…a vacation would be nice.

Other than that setback, general research has been going well. I was able to search through The Times online archive a few times (once on campus and at other times with the help of my sister as a student at IUPUI) and found quite a lot of articles about food rationing–nearly 50 in all that I saved in my data mining. I haven’t run a second check on letters to the editor yet, but that’s my next goal, as right now I am in the process of transcribing those articles I’m finding most useful and have just finished those for the year 1942. As of right now, that puts me at 36 transcribed articles of varying lengths, which is either not enough or too many. I’m not sure.

Along with my data mining of The Times archive, I accessed the Mass-Observation Archive Online to get ahold of a PDF copy of MO’s Home Propaganda report from 1941, which I then used the ABBYY software in the digital history lab to convert into a text file. I still need to finish going through this document and check for any mistakes that occurred during the conversion process (I got about half-way through the file before I had to go to work last week and haven’t gone back to it since). I also have three PDF documents from the House of Commons papers that came back from a general search on the Ministry of Food and Lord Woolton (Minister of Food from 1940 until 1943) which also need to be converted using the ABBYY software. I plan on completing this before I go to work on Thursday evening, as it shouldn’t take long, and then I can proof the files and search through them for relevant information.

If this doesn’t sound like enough on my plate, I also managed to create a spreadsheet on Google Drive for a timeline with three distinct lines–major World War II events, specifically British events, and rationing “events.” I have a bit of weeding-out to do, particularly of the main World War II events, as I’ve laid out about 80 in that category alone. That’s probably excessive, but the source I was using, Vere Hodgson’s wartime diary Few Eggs and No Oranges, had a timeline at the beginning of each chapter that I just decided to mine and worry about cutting down later. Which I will do soon. The rationing portion of the timeline looks a little sparse, largely because after July 1942 the rationing scheme is firmly in place and will remain so until the late 1940s, long after V-J Day. Fluctuations in food rationing (amounts or number of points) were then determined on a four-week basis, with policy being adjusted based on the availability of supplies. Marking every shift in the ounces of bacon or sugar or tea an individual gets every month on a timeline sounds insane for me to attempt and illegible for users to navigate, so I will work on streamlining the main WWII events I have before compiling everything together. As far as timeline tools go, I’ve started to load some events into TimelineJS, which I hope to continue using since it would let me add in images or even video if I want to. I took a look at Timeglider, which also seems fairly easy to use, so I might play around with both to see what finished product I prefer.

Another tool I’ve played around with a bit is Voyant. I have looked at two sets of data using this text analysis tool, Vere Hodgson’s diary and the set of articles from the 1940 London Times that I recently finished transcribing. There were 9 articles that I transcribed from that particular year, which produced this lovely little word cloud–

London Times, 1940 Voyant Word Cloud

I saved the URL for this particular corpus so I could access the data for it again, which allows me to see that the word “meat” is mentioned in this set of articles 36 times, with the next highest words being “ration” (35), “food” (28), and “rationing” (21). I like this tool because it allows you to see the words that are mentioned the most in a text (or set of texts), examine word trends, see the keywords in context, and also upload separate documents alongside one another and analyze them. I like the visualization tools that Voyant offers, particularly the word clouds and the word trends graph.

Those are the main tools that I’ve worked with so far, but I’m hoping that once I finish transcribing and going through The Times archive I’ll be able to play with some more and see what works best for presenting my data. I also hope to map the locations of the women I have from the diaries and anthologies using GIS at some point, designating their class, marital status, and rural or urban locations.

One last thing…images! Last week, I ran into an online resource on the Imperial War Museum’s website (which Dr. Seefeldt also pointed me to) on Second World War posters. While the page itself had posters for rationing of all types of consumer goods during the war and other helpful tips (like dressing in the blackout), it also provided direct links to a few posters on food rationing. This was a great resource to find because each poster is linked to the artist, printer, and publisher in the database, which in turn yielded many more results than just those found on the resource page! I even found my favorite rationing poster from the war–
IWM Poster Potluck with Churchill

Anyone who knows me well will probably see that I like this image for two reasons: 1) a silly caricature of Hitler as a pie, and 2) a very pleasant looking Winston Churchill as a casserole dish. I’m going to assume the Churchill dish is made up of potatoes and another wartime staple–possibly lamb or offal.

There are of course more images on the IWM website that address food rationing and specifically address women and housewives as consumers. I hope to incorporate those into my website in some way, although I haven’t figured out how exactly. I think it will have something to do with analyzing the text on the posters, although some of the directives are rather simple, but at least they’re succinct. Other images I have come across in the IWM collections include individual ration books, photographs of women standing in food queues in London, and a staged display of the weekly food ration for an adult. I think these will be helpful in adding more visual interest on the pages of my website that might have a bit more text, plus they present a unique picture of the period, in my opinion. I also plan to look for images of my three diarists (or scan them from the diaries myself) for their bios.

So far, it seems like the compilation of data and material is going fairly well. Other than my snafu with the National Archives and the fact that government documents seem impossible to access without spending a month in Surrey, I actually have a lot of data in my possession and have the potential to access more through Mass-Observation Online. Funnily enough, last time I was on the site I noticed a “mapping” feature, which I haven’t gotten a chance to look at, but I hope to soon. Considering many of the women whose work (diaries, anthology sources) I have access to contributed to MO, I’m fairly certain a number of them will be in the database and those who are not have their locations and other information already provided.

I’m still pretty nervous about actually making a website, but I know I have a lot of the data I need and can access the tools needed to understand that data. One step at a time, right?

Until later!

Edit, Wednesday: I forgot to mention, I also have about ten or eleven articles from the New York Times about the food rationing situation in Britain, which I hope to transcribe as well.

Something Clever Here

Blog Post #1

I’ve never been very good at coming up with titles in a hurry. It is generally the last thing I do to finish a project, which is why for my 613 paper, the title of the rough draft was, in fact, “Rough Draft.” I had no idea there would be a need for a real title, or even a rough one, on a draft. That’s just not how I roll. I prefer to flesh out the substance of a project, to let it really sink in and consume my entire being before coming up with something clever, original, and obviously groundbreaking as its title.

Hence the title of this blog post. Very clever.

But back to the matter at hand. I’ve started this blog as a way to track the progress of my digital project for HIST 661 at Ball State, which is based on a paper I wrote last spring for my modern British history class. The topic of the paper, as well as this project, is food rationing in Britain during the Second World War. Sounds exciting, right? More specifically, I will be looking at women’s perceptions toward food rationing, as British women were often the primary household consumers through their roles as wives and mothers. As noted by Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska in Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls, and Consumption 1939-1955 (2000), because women largely ran their households, they were primarily responsible for carrying out food policy as they managed household supplies, carried out the shopping, and prepared the rationed food for consumption. For this reason, women’s general acceptance of food policy was crucial to maintain civilian morale as well as support for the British war effort, and responses to food rationing greatly impacted it, deserving exploration.

As this is a topic I have previously looked at, my grasp of the subject is fairly strong, something I’m thankful for going into my last semester of graduate school. For this reason, I already have a significant collection of primary source material consisting of published diaries (three in total–two that I have digital notes for), anthology collections that include contemporary writings from women on food, and a published collection of letters to the editor of The Times of London. There is also a wealth of primary source data available from the Mass-Observation Archive, an anthropological study established in 1937 to survey and document everyday life in Britain, which I accessed last semester on microfilm at Indiana University, Bloomington. Within this collection there is a file specifically on food, containing surveys conducted to the public at large on rationing policies, overheard observances recorded by employed workers for MO, responses and diary entries submitted to the project, as well as reports published by the organization on various topics. For a British social historian of the mid-20th century, Mass-Observation is a fantastic resources on a variety of subjects: from shopping trends and films to responses to public figures and national crises, it has so much!

Secondary sources that cover food rationing, and women’s views on it in particular, aren’t vast, with the best works including Zweiniger-Bargielowsk’s book, Geoffrey Field’s Blood, Sweat, and Toil: Remaking the British Working Class, 1939-1945 (2013), and Angus Calder’s The People’s War (1969). Other works tend to focus more on governmental policies or political aspects of the war rather than on this particular aspect of social history, but can be useful in their own right for providing a more general context to the period.

The great thing about already knowing a lot about this topic is that I am able to now focus on what this project actually is: digital. As someone who isn’t particularly skilled with the creative aspects of technology (I don’t think Facebook posts and liking cat videos on YouTube counts), being able to essentially move past finding and compiling data is actually a relief since it give me more time to explore new ways of presenting that data. My main goal at the present is to finish digitizing the entries of my final diary source. As we move along in the class and learn more about the tools available for our use, I hope to become more comfortable with actually building a website and put those new skills into practice through a bit of trial and error and hopefully some informative tutorials. The internet is a scary, yet promising, place.

Until next time!