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Life changes in England since 1700
Author: Hugh Cunningham

This book provides the first history of how we have imagined and used time since 1700. It traces the history of the relationship between work and leisure, from the 'leisure preference' of male workers in the eighteenth century, through the increase in working hours in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, to their progressive decline from 1830 to 1970. It examines how trade union action was critical in achieving the decline; how class structured the experience of leisure; how male identity was shaped by both work and leisure; how, in a society that placed high value on work, a 'leisured class' was nevertheless at the apex of political and social power – until it became thought of as 'the idle rich'. Coinciding with the decline in working hours, two further tranches of time were marked out as properly without work: childhood and retirement.

By the mid-twentieth century married men had achieved a work- leisure balance. In the 1960s and 1970s it was argued that leisure time would increase at a rapid rate. This false prediction coincided with the entry of married women into the labour market and a halt to the decline in working hours and in sectors of the economy a reversal of it. These two developments radically changed the experience of time and thinking about it. Time became equated with achieving a 'work-life balance' where 'life' was often unpaid childcare and domestic work.

Britain and beyond
Author: Hugh Cunningham

Most people now associate philanthropy with donations of money by the rich to good causes. It has not always been so. The reputation of philanthropy since 1750 explores how our modern definition came about and asks why philanthropy and philanthropists have always been as likely to be criticised as praised. Based on original research in newspapers, periodicals, novels and letters, the book provides a compelling account of a shift from philanthropy being a feeling of love of humankind to one where it became heavily engaged in opposing slavery and reforming prisons, both of them political and contentious issues. On the positive side Britain was praised as the most philanthropic country in the world and something the nation was proud of. But the ‘telescopic philanthropy’ that Charles Dickens lambasted, a philanthropy that focused on those far away to the neglect of the poor at home, was under the spotlight. Equally contentious was the relationship between philanthropy and political economy: to the critics philanthropy led to the creation of a dependency class, it did more harm than good. After almost sinking out of sight in the mid-twentieth century, dismissed critically as ‘Victorian’, philanthropy in the twenty-first century has regained a high profile.

Abstract only
Hugh Cunningham

This chapter provides an introduction to the historiography of how time has been studied and outlines the themes of the book. The literature on work-life balance is criticised for its lack of historical perspective. The 'leisure preference' of male workers in the early eighteenth century is contrasted with the increasing hours of work up to 1830 and then their progressive decline up to 1970. Over the same period, childhood and retirement became perceived as time without work. The period since then has been marked by a halt to the decline in working hours and women's increasing participation in the labour market. Time, it is argued, is both linear and cyclical, its history intimately bound up with the histories of space, of class, of Christianity and of economic life.

in Time, work and leisure
Hugh Cunningham

This chapter explores attitudes to time and experiences of time in the eighteenth century. It looks at 'light and darkness', showing how the night was increasingly colonised by light; at almanacs and calendars which in a multiplicity of ways framed people's experience of time; at the spread of clocks and watches; at the profoundly important idea that everyone was accountable to God for how they spent their time; at the development by the middling sorts and the aristocracy of a distinctive leisure life; and at childhood and old age as part of the life course. It concludes by examining how far these eighteenth-century ideas about time survived into the nineteenth century and beyond.

in Time, work and leisure
Hugh Cunningham

This chapter focuses on the assertion by eighteenth-century commentators that the labouring classes frequently worked only four or even three days a week. An examination of working lives shows that weather or changing levels of demand meant that much work was irregular. The chapter argues that on top of this there is evidence that well-paid male workers took time off when they could. It counters the claims that an industrious revolution or consumer revolution suggest a commitment to hard work, arguing instead that the increase in working hours in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries owed most to attempts to counter decreasing standards of living. It examines employer strategies to secure a regular workforce in the industrial revolution period, and concludes by assessing E. P. Thompson's arguments about the importance of Methodism in altering people's perceptions and use of time.

in Time, work and leisure
Hugh Cunningham

This chapter argues that the period 1750-1850 was marked by two apparently contradictory processes: an attack on popular leisure, frequently defined as idleness, and an expansion of commercial leisure on offer to the people. The attack on popular leisure focused on the entertainment offered by pubs and on sports like bull-baiting. Crucial to it was the declining availability of space for leisure, due partly to increasing urbanisation. The expansion of commercial leisure was most obvious in the spread of sports where gambling was central and of theatre in its widest sense. Many contemporaries within all classes worried about the increasing separation of the classes in leisure, and there were numerous attempts, most prominently under the label 'rational recreation', to bring the classes together in leisure activities and in institutions free of commercial input. But by 1850 the public parks, libraries and museums were more aspirations than realities on the ground.

in Time, work and leisure
Hugh Cunningham

This chapter traces the decline in working hours. In 1830 adults spent about half their hours at work, in 1970 one-third. Children were the focus of early attempts to reduce hours by legislation, but trade union action was more important than parliamentary legislation in achieving significant reductions in daily hours for adults. Reductions were achieved in four distinct periods, the 1840s, the 1870s, 1918-9 and post Second World War. Weekly hours of work became more regular with a Saturday half-holiday slowly and partially replacing St Monday. Holidays only became a significant amount of time off work when they began to be paid in the twentieth century. Work time was further diminished by the prolongation of childhood, ideally without work, at one end of the life course, and by the development of retirement at the other.

in Time, work and leisure
Hugh Cunningham

This chapter is concerned with male identity. It opens by looking at the gospel of work, as preached by Thomas Carlyle and many others. It contrasts this vision of the benefits of work by exploring the reality of work in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Shorter hours of work were achieved at the cost of intensification of work, the spread of piece work, de-skilling and a high rate of accidents. On the other hand, work gave many men a sense of self-worth. Leisure, primarily commercial in provision, was seen by many commentators as a problem, Yet it also, in sport, spectatorship, competitions, in the pub, gave men an identity. The conclusion is that many working-class men by 1970 had achieved a work-leisure balance.

in Time, work and leisure
Hugh Cunningham

This chapter examines the paradox that in a society that put a high value on work, those at the top of the social scale were celebrated as a 'leisured classs' with important political and social functions. By the early twentieth century, however, the 'leisured class' were beginning to be called the 'idle rich', and by mid-century they were thought to be a thing of the past. The need for leisure for the well-off, especially 'brain-workers', was, however, a constant theme of commentators in the later nineteenth century, leading to calls for 'a gospel of leisure' to sit alongside 'a gospel of work'. But for those in the higher echelons of the social strata, work in the twentieth century became more demanding, leading an economist in 1970 to write about a 'harried leisure class', those who were money-rich but time-short, a foretaste of work-life balance debates.

in Time, work and leisure
Hugh Cunningham

The focus of this chapter is on women. Women in the early twentieth century enjoyed leisure time up to marriage but not thereafter. Married women's entry into the labour market in large numbers in the second half of the twentieth century did nothing to increase their leisure, and by the end of the century there was a growing literature addressed to women on how to achieve 'work-life balance', the key being personal organisation. But 'life' in this literature consisted mainly of unpaid child care and domestic work. It coincided with a half to the long decline of hours and in sectors of the economy, particularly in managerial jobs, an increase. Stress at work was increasingly a factor.

in Time, work and leisure