Welcome to the forum Ally from Wales (my Grandfather was too)
. When is your essay due? You should take your time if you want to do Tolkien justice.
Odo had some excellent suggestions for places to get some basic background info, but you sound like you need some personal testimonies too. I think you might get some value from browsing some of the sub-forums here. I don't have time tonight, but I'll pop back when I do to try and answer a few of your questions.GB