Leisure Reflections No 44: The Role of History in Leisure Studies


By Bob Stebbins. University of Calgary

Website (personal): http://soci.ucalgary.ca/profiles/robert-stebbins
Website (Perspective): www.seriousleisure.net

History figures in the study of leisure in at least three crucial ways: as general history, history of leisure provision, and activity-specific history. Over the years I have remarked sporadically on all three, and with this article, am now attempting to elucidate more systematically the role of each type. Let me be clear from the outset that I am not privileging one or the other. In many instances a complete explanation of leisure rests on two or three of these histories.

General History

The general histories track and explain the emergence and change of leisure as an institution or segment of that institution such as sport or the hobbies. These histories explain leisure in macro-contextual terms; they present a big chronological picture of leisure. Below are some highlights, showing together a number of the crucial developments leading up to today’s leisure institution as experienced in the West. My object is to provide a sense of the general of history sufficiently clear to set it off from its leisure provision and activity-specific counterparts. Many excellent general histories have been written over the years (e.g., Sylvester, 1999; Spracklen, 2011; Goodale & Godbey, 1988), obviating here the need to go into further detail. The general history also includes discussions of the various leisure trends, some of which I have recently reviewed (Stebbins, 2017, Chap. 8).

Viewed from the standpoint of work and leisure, much of the history of mankind has been about subsistence as a livelihood, with free-time activity taking place in the comparatively few hours left over after seeing to life’s basic needs. Hunting, fishing, and gathering food; raising and harvesting crops; and moving to new land that facilitates all of these, along with defending against enemies, human and animal, occupy a lot of time in a pre-industrial society. But life on this subsistence level must necessarily include a few hours off for games, dancing, music, relaxation, sexual activity, casual conversation, and the like. Hamilton-Smith (2003, pp. 225-226) wrote that archaeological findings on this sort of leisure gathered from artifacts, living sites, cave painting, and so on date as far back as the prehistoric cultures.

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Just a walk with the dog?

Reproduced from The Conversation
By Louise Platt (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Thomas Fletcher (Leeds Beckett University)

Dogs love “walkies”. And unless it’s pouring with rain and blowing a gale, so do their owners. But there’s much more to this daily routine than you might think. In fact, it’s actually a complex process of negotiation, which reveals a great deal about our relationship with man’s best friend.

In many ways, the walk reflects the historical social order of human domination and animal submission. But research suggests that it also allows humans and dogs to negotiate their power within the relationship. In fact, our recent study found that the daily dog walk involves complex negotiation at almost every stage.

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New Book: Thomas Arthur Leonard and the Co-operative Holidays Association: Joy in widest commonalty spread

Dr Douglas Hope is pleased to share with you news of his new book. Building on the work previously posted here.

This book focuses on Thomas Arthur Leonard, a Congregational minister in Colne, Lancashire in the 1890s, and the Co-operative Holidays Association, which he founded in 1893 and which operated as an independent provider of outdoor holidays until 2002. Leonard also founded the Holiday Fellowship, which continues to trade as HF Holidays, in 1913 and was instrumental in the establishment of the Youth Hostels Association in 1930 and the formation of the Ramblers’ Association in 1935.

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A shift to the overt?


By Professor David Crouch
University of Derby

Almost occluded from popular discussion is the vulnerability and loss of publicly owned or managed sites, indoor and outdoor in countries across the world. The UK is no exception to this. More widely ‘austerity measures’ are followed by so called ‘easy losers’ [sic]: city parks however small; public halls, clubs for younger and others for older individuals and gatherings.

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Debating Sport and the Arts: aesthetics and representation


By Jonathan Long
Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure
Leeds Beckett University (UK)

For the second in a series of three seminars for our AHRC research network (for background see the LSA blog: https://leisurestudiesblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/sport-in-the-arts-the-arts-in-sport/#more-214) we swapped the sporting environment of the National Football Museum (https://leisurestudiesblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/25/sport-in-art-art-in-sport/#more-337) for the artier environs of The Watershed in Bristol.  This time the theme was ‘aesthetics and representation’.

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