Amusements of the people : the provision of recreation in Leicester, 1850-1914
The thesis takes as its subject the development of cultural forms and institutions, exploring constraints on the exercise of choice in the use of non-work time in an evolving capitalist society. By means of a local study, it aims to describe relationships between aspects of popular recreation, especially those involving working class participation, and to relate these to economic and political circumstances. The study focuses upon individuals and organisations providing facilities and creating institutions in which non-work time was spent outside the home. The body of the thesis consists of discrete but interrelated studies of themes in the development of recreation in Leicester. These concern the relationship between recreation and the workplace (ch.1), the role of religious organisations as providers and critics of recreational activities (ch.2), initiatives by the municipal authorities (ch.3) and licensing magistrates (ch.4), the bases of commercial provision in the drink trade, theatre and sport (chs.4-6) and the engagement of the labour movement (ch.7). The thesis is written from a critical standpoint which acknowledges as fundamental to the understanding of 19th century recreation the uneven distribution of free time, power and money within capitalist society. But while social control and hegemony are exploited as pointers to appropriate areas of study, they are found wanting as explanations of complex historical reality. In its empirical conclusions, the study confirms the significance of relationships between work and culture, identifying ways in which the economic development of Leicester constrained recreational provision. Commercial agencies are shown to have been relatively weak during much of the period whereas municipal and religious organisations were of considerable importance from the 1860s until the end of the period of study.