It has often been argued that ‘modern’ leisure was born in the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the outbreak of World War One. Then, it has been suggested, that if leisure was not ‘invented’ its forms and meanings changed. Despite the recent expansion of the literature on Irish popular cultures – perhaps most strikingly sport – the conceptions, purposes, and practical manifestations of leisure among the Irish during this critical period have yet to receive the attention they deserve. This collection represents an attempt to address this. In twelve essays that explore vibrant expressions of associational culture, the emergence of new leisure spaces, literary manifestations and representations of leisure, the pleasures and purposes of travel, and the leisure pursuits of elite women the collection offers a variety of perspectives on the volume’s theme. As becomes apparent in these studies, all manner of activity, from music to football, reading to dining, travel to photography, dancing to dining, visiting to cycling, child’s play to fighting and attitudes to these were shaped not just by the drive to pleasure but by ideas of class, respectability, improvement and social control as well as political, social, educational, medical and religious ideologies. List of contributors: Leeann Lane, William Murphy, John Borgonovo, Brendan Power, Vanessa Rutherford, Orla Fitzpatrick, Matthew Potter, James H. Murphy, Kevan O’Rourke, Patrick Maume, Philip McEvansoneya, Brian Griffin, Maeve O’Riordan and Rachel Murphy.
'There is a distinct gap in the historiography. So this varied collection of essays, harvested from the annual conference of the Society for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Ireland in 2012, is particularly welcome.'
Peter Borsay, Continuity and Change
'This present collection does a superb job at highlighting just some of the areas for us to think more about in regard to the history of leisure in Ireland – in the nineteenth as well as the recently passed twentieth century. It is an important contribution to a growing body of work and along with its relations in the field of sport history; a more mature and developed discussion of leisure and sport in the development and history of life on this island might be possible. Indeed, it might be time for those ‘broader contexts’ of which the editors write to meet annual not under the heading of sport alone but leisure too.'
David Toms, Irish Economic and Social History
'This is a well-edited and exciting volume that certainly demonstrates the current state of English-language research on nineteenth-century popular culture, with one foot in the more traditional study of civic society and one foot in the innovative search for new angles and decentred perspectives.'
Peter K Andersson, The English Historical Review
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