The Victorians invented mass entertainment. As the nineteenth century’s growing industrialized class acquired the funds and the free time to pursue leisure activities, their every whim was satisfied by entrepreneurs building new venues for popular amusement. Contrary to their reputation as dour, buttoned-up prudes, the Victorians reveled in these newly created ‘palaces of pleasure’.
In this vivid, captivating book, Lee Jackson charts the rise of well-known institutions such as gin palaces, music halls, seaside resorts and football clubs, as well as the more peculiar attractions of the pleasure garden and international exposition, ranging from parachuting monkeys and human zoos to theme park thrill rides. He explores how vibrant mass entertainment came to dominate leisure time and how the attempts of religious groups and secular improvers to curb ‘immorality’ in the pub, variety theater and dance hall faltered in the face of commercial success.
The Victorians’ unbounded love of leisure created a nationally significant and influential economic force: the modern entertainment industry.
Lee Jackson is a well-known Victorianist and creator of the preeminent website on Victorian London. He is the author of Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth and Walking Dickens’ London. He lives in London.
Hardcover, 320 pages, 24 colour illustrations.
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