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Title: Leisure and pleasure in London society, 1760-1820 : an agent-centred approach
Author: Heller, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 2676 3962
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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The historiography of leisure has focused on class conflict, commercialization, and the arts. In the latter two areas historians have attempted to make statements about consumers, but as historians of consumption have demonstrated, examining the consumer from the perspective of producers is insufficient. This thesis demonstrates what the developing methodologies used to examine practice and consumption reveal about leisure and recreation. Exploration of forty-five diaries kept in London between 1757 and 1820 makes it possible to consider different aspects of choice with reference to recreation. This dissertation analyses how simple determinants of choice such as time, location, and cost shaped behaviour before moving on to the more complex and fuzzy concepts of social position, the role of domesticity, and taste. Choice is central to understanding what amusement was in Georgian society, therefore it is necessary to consider both people’s scope for choice, and the forces shaping those choices. Following an introductory section, chapters two to four examine choice by looking at simple factors. London was by far England’s largest city, but the distribution of establishments and patterns of mobility affected different segments of society in complex ways. In addition, leisure routines and the ability to spend money on recreation differed between socioeconomic groups who had different amounts of time and money to use. Affinities within social groups appear, but diaries also illuminate the importance of individual variations. Chapter four signals a shift in the analysis by looking at determinants of choice like feeling obliged, wanting to please friends or family, or the impact of social networks on reactions to activities. Chapters five to eight examine interpersonal relationships and the function of recreation in eighteenth-century society and raise questions about how we combine agency and structure in our models of society. This account challenges claims that group identities were the only identities available to Georgians and that individual variations were downplayed before the nineteenth century. Rather, individuals existed in networks that had to be negotiated and maintained.
Supervisor: Innes, Joanna Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Eighteenth-Century Britain and Europe ; Leisure ; London ; social structure