David Elliston Allen interviewed by Jack Goody and Alan Macfarlane 12th April 1983
[The quality of the film is not good]
JG: Asks about the methodology used for his book 'British Tastes'
DEA: Market research surveys; construction of questionnaires; opinion polls
JG: Use of published market research surveys and how they could be used
DEA: Method of secondary analysis of surveys; commercial TV; Odhams Press survey publications; trade associations; Government surveys, particularly food surveys
JG: Are there surveys of flower sales?
DEA: No, but a lot on smoking, toys; reports in libraries
JG: Is there a register of surveys?
Nearest is the Social Science Research Council archive at
JG: If deposited, no problem with access or copyright as in the public domain
DEA: Now there is a computerized archive and items can be borrowed
JG: Asks what the potential for students could be from analysis of this data
DEA: By using all these sample surveys you get a bird's eye view of national behaviour; enormous numbers of people involved and impossible to see trends on the ground; in Britain, comparatively minor differences in general, though great differences between England and Scotland; example in attitude to pig meat: Scots prefer beef sausages, English prefer pork
AM: Asks about work on historical geography and hedge dating, how is it done and what it its purpose
DEA: Dr Max Hooper invented hedge dating; W.G. Hoskins work suggested some hedges were ancient; Hooper looked at hedges that Hoskins could date from documentary evidence; began to emerge that for every thirty yard stretch of hedge, for every shrub and tree species occurring you could add approximately a hundred years; almost too good to be true, but works, and has been validated by surveys in a large part of the country; probability theory probably suggest why it should work; another theory that many old hedges cut out of woodland at the time of clearances; all this established for English hedgerows but doesn't work in Ireland, Isle of Man, Galloway and the Cornish peninsula, dykes built of sods edge fields; these topped with furze or bramble; my discovery was through working on brambles, particularly in the Isle of Man; number of species of brambles indicate age
AM: What can one read on this?
DEA: Best single work is a book by Hooper and others in Collins 'New Naturalist' series
AM: Asks about work on natural history and his recent book on natural history societies
DEA: Was trying to construct a scaffolding for the history of natural history; difficult because there is little theory, unlike the history of science; fashions over time for butterflies or birds; influence of wider trends in social movements; network research in geology in the 1820's; reinvented for field botany in 1830-40's by H.C. Watson; later ornithologists began studying bird migration in 1880's; huge surveys of birds from late 1920's; later Government money as seen as valuable for scientific research; new scientific technique had been developed by amateurs in networks which no professional working alone could emulate