Passing the time away: the historical development of leisure

  • John Clarke
  • Chas Critcher
Part of the Titles in the Crisis Points series book series (CRPOI)


The demand for amusement is not less noticeable than that for holidays, and supply follows. Towhat shall we eat, what drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?’ must now be added the questionHow shall we be amused?’ To this an answer has to be found. Even to the police it is a problem. (Charles Booth, in A. Fried and R. Elman (eds). Charles Booths London, Penguin, 1971, p. 258.)


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Further reading

  1. Some of the most innovative historical analysis of leisure has first appeared in journals, especially The Journal of Social History, Past and Present and History Workshop. Two edited collections of recent social history articles deserve to be mentioned: Eileen and Stephen Yeo (eds), Popular Culture and Class Conflict, 1590–1914 (Harvester, 1981) and A. J. P. Donajgrodski (ed.), Social Control in Nineteenth Century Britain (Croom Helm, 1977). Although less directly connected to the theme of leisure, a collection of History Workshop conference papers edited by Ralph Samuel, Peoples History and Socialist Theory (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981), deals with some of the central problems of social history.Google Scholar
  2. A straightforward introduction to the history of leisure is J. Walvin’s Leisure and Society 1830–1950 (Longman, 1978), which could usefully be read alongside what remains one of the best economic and social histories covering the last two hundred years, Eric Hobsbawm’s Industry and Empire (Penguin, 1969).Google Scholar
  3. R. W. Malcolmson, Popular Recreations in English Society, 1700–1850 Cambridge University Press, 1973) details the decline of traditional popular recreations, while a more politicised interpretation of social change in this period is made in E. P. Thompson’s brilliant The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin, 1968). He argues against the interpretation of the early nineteenth century suggested by the title of J. L. and B. Hammond’s, The Bleak Age (Penguin, 1947). This portrait is also disputed by Hugh Cunningham in Leisure and the Industrial Revolution (Croom Helm, 1980), and by Peter Bailey in Leisure and Class in Victorian England (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978). Eric Dunning and Ken Sheard’s Barbarians, Gentlemen and Players (Martin Robertson, 1979) provides one of the best accounts of the changing social ethos and organisation of sport-in this case, rugby.Google Scholar
  4. The paucity of studies of early twentieth century leisure is emphasised by A. Howkins and J. Lowerson in Trends in Leisure 1919–1939 (Sports Council, 1979). The social context is described in John Stevenson, British Society 1914–1945 (Penguin, 1984), and the same historian has edited a collection of extracts from contemporary social investigators: Social Conditions in Britain Between the Wars (Penguin, 1977). The society of the 1930s is discussed by Noreen Branson and Margot Heinemann in Britain in the Nineteen Thirties (Panther, 1973), while Paul Thompson’s excellent The Edwardians (Granada, 1977) deals with the turn of the century. Mass Observation’s surveys provided distinctive contemporary observations of pre-war and war time Britain’s social habits. Most relevant here is Mass Observation, The Pub and the People (Gollancz, 1943).Google Scholar
  5. There are hardly any social histories of post-war Britain, much less ones dealing specifically with leisure. Arthur Marwick’s British Society since 1945 (Penguin, 1982) offers a descriptive review. More generally relevant to the whole argument of this book is the Open University course Popular Culture (Open University Educational Enterprises, 1981), and the course units dealing with ‘The historical development of popular culture’ are especially pertinent to this chapter.Google Scholar
  6. With a few notable exceptions, the above references deal exclusively with the world of male leisure. The recent growth of women’s history promises to remedy some of these absences. Sheila Rowbotham’s Hidden from History (Pluto Press, 1973) remains a cogent argument about the invisibility of women in most historical studies. Steps in new directions are represented by the following. S. Burman (ed.), Fit Work for Women (Croom Helm. 1979) includes papers on the experience and ideologies of ‘women’s work’ in the nineteenth century, as does M. Vicinus (ed.), Suffer and be Still: Women in the Victorian Age (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973). Jill Liddington and Jill Norris, One Hand Tied Behind Us (Virago, 1978) examine the role of working class women in the women’s suffrage movement and other struggles over women’s rights. Barbara Taylor’s brilliant Eve and the New Jerusalem (Virago, 1983) examines the relationship between feminism and socialism in the early nineteenth century, and the ways in which that relationship was broken. Finally, one of the very few post-war social histories is Elizabeth Wilson’s Only Halfway to Paradise (Tavistock, 1980) which examines the changing social position of, and ideologies about, women.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Clarke and Chas Critcher 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Clarke
  • Chas Critcher

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations