The period 1851 – 1914 was an important time in the transition of leisure and cultural practices in Britain.

It is certain that the period 1851 – 1914 was an important time in the transition of leisure and cultural practices in Britain. These changes were led by a combination of the upper classes placing an emphasis on leisure time being used to create a sense of morality and rightness and a revolution in leisure technology taking place across the Atlantic at this time.

One of the most revolutionary and staying factors of the changing leisure practices of the period 1851 to 1914 is the birth of the weekend culture; between 1850 and 1913 the pattern of the working week relented from sixty five hours per week to fifty six. This may likely be a result of the introduction of the concept of rational recreation into Britain at this time. This concept encourages the lower classes to utilise their time away from a working environment to morally improve themselves by partaking in activities which may be deemed traditionally acceptable or educational as a means of preserving their respectability, such as attending museums and art galleries. This was an attempt by the upper classes to lure lower classes away from non-respectable activities such as attending cock fights and public houses. It is therefore evident that this period was an important time in the transition of leisure and cultural practices in Britain as it was a time which emphasised the importance of free time to better oneself.

However, the late Victorian era and beyond also saw a rise in alternate leisure activities. Spectator sports, such as football, were originally frowned upon since they could not be considered ‘rational’ activities; however, from around 1850 the popularity of these games soared and they were in fact encouraged because they started to be seen as promoting exercise, discipline and order. This promotion of moral and physical health, subtly drilled key military skills into working class citizens effectively providing Britain with a generation of ready-made soldiers – perfect for imperialist nineteenth century Britain. However, the level of spectators to such games far outnumbered the participants causing concerns amongst upper classes of football hooliganism, drinking and gambling which furthered the desire to popularise rational activities. Though, the continuing popularity of spectator sports such as football has proved that this was a revolutionary period for leisure and cultural practices in Britain.

Similarly prevalent today, the emergence of British cinema bloomed within the rapid expansion of music halls in the late nineteenth century; between 1850 and 1890, the music hall experienced a large growth in its clientele and by the 1890s roughly 45000 patrons were attending music halls every night in London alone. However, the development of cinematic technology in the United States at this time, with the first commercial motion picture exhibition in 1894 in New York City, proved to have the most revolutionary long term effect on the cultural and leisure activities in Britain with people today studying motion picture technology and film production at university level.

To conclude, it is evident that the period 1851-1914 was a very significant time for changing cultural and leisure practices in Britain. Together the impact of militaristic encouragement of football and the technological revolution of cinema had profound effects on Britain’s leisure activities that have endured more than a century.

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