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.
Leisure and relaxation are an “arch-human phenomenon” inseparable from human experience irrespective of temporal and cultural considerations. As such, they have been the focus of attention of intellectual reflection from classical times to the present.1 Apart from the basic function of regenerating one’s physical and mental condition after a period of intensive work, they play several social and cultural roles. They provide human beings with an opportunity to achieve a sense of well-being, to express emotions, to display social status and identity, and to foster social bonds. The study of forms of leisure and recreation in their social and cultural context offers an insight into the nature of the people and the character of the nation involved in them. As Joseph Strutt, an 18th-century English antiquarian and writer observed:
In order to form a just estimation of the character of any particular people, it is absolutely necessary to investigate the Sports and Pastimes most generally prevalent among them. War, policy, and other contingent circumstances may effectually place men, at different times, in different points of view, but, when we follow them into their retirements, where no disguise is necessary, we are most likely to see them in their true state, and may best judge of their natural dispositions.2
Thus, the analysis of the recreational practices of a certain nation provides useful information about its mores and social relations.
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