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Ideologies and Forms of Leisure and Recreation in Victorian Manchester


Beata Kiersnowska

This book analyses certain ideologies which governed the middle class’ hegemonic approach to leisure in Victorian Manchester. The study presents different forms of leisure, recreation and entertainment in the city. The author also examines the reasons for the support and financial involvement of Manchester bourgeoisie and its municipal authorities in their development. The analysis covers a wide range of cultural practices and activities, such as institutions and activities promoting intellectual and moral development, family recreation and entertainment, as well as activities and facilities improving health, physical and moral condition of the Mancunians, and sport.

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Chapter 1: Manchester – the first modern city of commerce and industry


1.1 Early industrialisation in the Manchester area

The nineteenth century is often described as the “age of great cities”1 and Manchester, by far, was the greatest and the most prominent of them all. As a place of rapid urban growth providing many opportunities for personal enrichment, it attracted a considerable degree of public attention in Britain and oversees as early as the latter half of the 18th century. However, a great upsurge of interest in Manchester occurred a few decades later when it emerged as the first truly modern industrial centre – “an urban prototype”2 of a host of large industrial cities that emerged in Western civilisation after the onset of the Industrial Revolution. A product of more than half a century of dramatic economic, political and social changes, whose impact the nation was fully realised only around the mid-19th century, Manchester was a “shock city”,3 a paragon of unfettered economic progress that also encapsulated the worst social and economic problems it involved.

The development of the city itself, as well as the area around it, owed much to the progress of the cotton industry. Cotton was introduced to Lancashire and Cheshire during the 17th century, by which time spinning and weaving of wool and linen had been long-established local trades. Alan Kidd hypothesises that by the mid-seventeenth century, the proportion of the manufacturing population in Lancashire may have been in excess of that of farming. The presence of a skilled workforce,...

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