Popular Leisure and Industrialisation

Kenneth J. Baird examines change and continuity in 19th-century British social history.

Cock-fighting, and other blood sports, did not survive the urbanisation of the 19th centuryContemporaries and historians have noted the transformation which took place in popular leisure activities in the first half of the 19th century and have generally indicated that industrialisation reduced the time and space available for recreation as well as fundamentally altering popular amusements. Contemporaries especially remarked that the traditional, communal celebrations - such as the parish feasts and fairs of the 18th century - were replaced by noisy, drunken and violent amusements, almost all of which centred on the public house. However, this view is simplistic and requires considerable qualification. Although industrialisation and urbanisation transformed popular leisure activities, there was also a degree of continuity. Furthermore, and even more important, the extent of industrialisation and urbanisation was not as great as the historiography has suggested. Consequently, although there was considerable qualitative changes to popular leisure, there was rather less quantitative change.

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