Published Jan 2010
Imagine a world where just one in ten people has a knife or a fork, where five out of six do not possess a cup. This was Britain in the early eighteenth century, yet by the close of the nineteenth, lives were completely transformed, now centring around urban living, industrial employment, shopping and professional entertainment. The Industrial Revolution brought with it factories, railways, mines and machines. It also brought travel, department stores, leisure and pleasure.
Consuming Passions tells the fascinating story of how, over two centuries, leisure became an industry, offering a cornucopia of entertainment for a new mass audience, as demand was fuelled by newspapers, by advertising, by publicity – all eighteenth century creations. Professional leisure had long existed, but easy access for the masses was new. Now technology brought elaborate theatrical extravaganzas, with dramatic special effects, hundreds of extras and even animals – one theatre staged a running of the Derby, with real horses, another recreated the battle of Waterloo, complete with a baggage wagon on fire, frightened horses bolting and, the popular finale, the flight of Napoleon.
The seaside and tourism, newspapers and novels, concerts, museums and shopping arcades – all were part of the new consumer world. From Aston Villa’s origins in a Sunday school to Thomas Cook’s temperance tours, Judith Flanders reveals how, building on revolutions in science, technology and industry, an entirely new world was created, a world of thrilling new shopping sensations, lavish spectacle and wild theatricality – the world, in fact, of today.