Leisure, citizenship and working-class men in Britain, 1850–1945

Author: Brad Beaven

This book analyses the development of male leisure against the changing notions of citizenship which underpinned perceptions of British society during the period 1850-1945. It opens with an examination of the 'leisure' problem of the middle decades of the nineteenth century. After the defeat of Chartism and associated challenges to the employers' right to organise the workplace, factory owners, the clergy and philanthropists established schemes of rational recreation designed to attract and educate working-class males. The book explores how schemes of rational recreation attempted to create the model citizen and the impact of these strategies on male working-class leisure. Taking three influential leisure activities - drink, the music hall and association football - the book explores their impact on both concepts of citizenship and male leisure patterns. In addition, commercial leisure also highlighted the marked gender divides in leisure activities found within working-class households. The book investigates the generational issues that shaped male working-class leisure. The increase in non-apprenticed semi-skilled work, particularly in the 'new' industry regions, raised fears that monotonous working practices and new leisure activities were a dangerous social cocktail. Moreover the book investigates how, during the late Victorian and early Edwardian era, the problem of a 'degenerate' youth became entwined with anxieties over the future of empire. It further contextualises male leisure against the dominant concerns between 1918 and 1945. This era saw the suburbanisation of British cities, continued anxieties over male citizenry and increased international tensions that led to war.

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