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Leisure and Recreation

Key Texts

  • Andy Croll, ‘Popular Leisure and Sport’ in Chris Williams (ed.), A Companion to Nineteenth-century Britain
  • Douglas Reid, ‘Playing and Praying’ in M Daunton (ed.), The Cambridge Urban History of Britain
  • Hugh Cunningham, 'Leisure and culture' in F. M. L. Thompson (ed.), Cambridge Social History of Britain, vol 2
  • P Bailey, ‘Conspiracies of meaning: music hall and the knowingness of popular culture’, Past and Present, 1994
  • Brian Harrison, Drink and the Victorians, especially chs 14 and 15
  • Mike Huggins, ‘More sinful pleasures? Leisure, respectability and the male middle classes in Victorian England’, Journal of Social History, 2000
  • Mike Huggins and Keith Gregson, 'Northern Songs, Sporting Heroes and Regional Consciousness, c. 1800-c. 1880 : "Wor Stars that Shine"'. Northern History, 44 (2007)
  • Martin Johnes, 'Pigeon Racing and Working-class Culture in Britain, c. 1870-1950'. Cultural and Social History, 4 (2007)
  • Alistair Mutch, 'Shaping the Public House, 1850–1950 : Business Strategies, State Regulation and Social History', Cultural and Social History, 1 (2004)

Questions (Focus on one or more leisure activities to answer these)

  • Was there an attempt to introduce ‘safe, respectable or improving alternative activities’?
  • Does working-class leisure and recreation express a class identity and culture under attack from the repressive and manipulative forces of middle class authority?
  • Investigate the ‘commercialisation’ of leisure.
  • Was there a sexual division of leisure pursuits? Does leisure help to reinforce notions of masculinity/femininity
  • What was the balance between large-scale, organised and informal, family based recreations – ie public versus private?
  • How does elite leisure activity differ from working class pursuits? Did leisure pursuits help develop class identities?

Further Reading

[If you are interested in a particular sport or leisure pursuit try searching on the Bibliography of British and Irish History or in Historical Abstracts - the reading below is an indication of the variety of literature available]

P. Bailey, Leisure and class in Victorian England: rational recreation and the quest for control

P. Bailey, ‘A Mingling mass of perfectly legitimate pleasures: the Victorian middle class and the pursuit of the leisure’, Victorian Studies, 1977

P Bailey, ‘Theatres of entertainment/spaces of modernity: rethinking the British Popular Stage 1890-1914’, Nineteenth Century Theatre, 1998

W J Baker, ‘The making of a working class football culture in Victorian England’, Journal of Social History, 1979

D Birley, Land of sport and glory: sport and British society 1887-1910

P Brailsford, British sport: a social history

D F Cheshire, Music Hall in Britain

David Peters Corbett, ‘Seeing into modernity: Walter Sickert’s Music Hall Scenes’, Modernism/Modernity, 2000

H Cunningham, Leisure in the industrial revolution, 1780-1880

E Dunning and K Sheard, Barbarians, gentlemen and players: a sociological study of the development of rugby football

A Davis, Leisure, gender and poverty: working class culture in Salford and Manchester, 1900-1939

Sue Farrant ‘London by the sea: resort development on the south coast of England, 1880-1939’, Journal of Contemporary History, 1987

R Holt, Sport and the British: a modern history

Dagmar Kift, The Victorian Music Hall: Culture, Class and Conflict

J Lowerson and J Myescough, Time to spare in Victorian England

R Malcomson, Popular recreation in English Society, 1700-1850

J A Mangan, The cultural bond: sport, empire and society

A Mason, Association football and English society, 1863-1915

K E McCrone, Sport and the physical emancipation of English women

H Meller, Leisure and the Changing City

James Nicholls, Politics of Alcohol: A History of the Drink Question in England

Scott Phillips, ‘Rational entertainment, music hall and the 19th century periodical press’, Theatre History Studies, 2002

Simon Phillips, ‘Fellowship in recreation, fellowship in ideas: sport, leisure and culture at Boots, 1883-1945’, Midland History, 2004

Douglas Reid, ‘Weddings, weekdays, work and leisure in urban England’, Past & Present, 1996

K A P Sandiford, Cricket and the Victorians

J K Walton, The English seaside resort: a social history, 1750-1914

J Walvin, Leisure and Society 1850-1950

J Walvin and J D Walton (eds), Leisure in Britain, 1780-1939

E Yeo and S Yeo, Popular culture and class conflict, 1500-1914: an exploration in the history of labour and leisure

Free Kicks at Football, University of Glasgow Special Collections

Free Kicks at Football, 1882 (University of Glasgow Special Collections)