Charlesworth, J. and Fink, Janet (2001) Historians and Social-Science Research Data: the Peter Townsend Collection. History Workshop Journal, 2001 (51). pp. 206-219. ISSN 1363-3554

This article examines the potential which archived collections of qualitative social science research data, such as the Peter Townsend Collection, hold for historians of post-war Britain. It focuses upon the early career of Peter Townsend to explore how empirical sociologists in the 1950s drew heavily upon anthropological approaches in their collection of data. Three data sets from the Townsend Collection – ‘The Family Life of Old People’, ‘Katharine Buildings’ and ‘The Last Refuge’ – are used to demonstrate both the nature of their investigations and the diverse range of primary material archived. The material is shown to be an especially valuable resource for research into social history of the 1950s including family, community and institutional life and, in addition, to provide insights into those assumptions and paradigms which shaped sociological investigations into family and kin ties during the 1950s.

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