Despite the challenge of seventeenth-century puritanism, many aspects of popular leisure continued to flourish in the century which followed: bull-baiting and cock-fighting; football, wrestling, cudgelling and cricket; and such holiday festivities as parish feasts, Michaelmas fairs, May Day rituals and Whitsun ales. In this book, Professor Malcolmson provides a full account of the sports, pastimes and festive celebrations of the English labouring people in the eighteenth century and examines their gradual decline up to the mid-nineteenth centuries. He describes how widespread social and cultural changes in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries - the enclosure movement, the rapid growth of cities, the rise of evangelicalism, the increasingly rigorous approaches to labour discipline, the decline of paternalistic values - undermined many of these recreations: while others were vigorously suppressed by 'respectable society'. Throughout, full attention is given not only to the actual conduct of popular recreations, but also to their social contexts, their relevance to the culture of genteel society and their involvement in those broader patterns of change which we have come to associate with the 'modernization' of traditional society.
'... Dr Malcolmson has made an expert contribution to the development of the social approach to history.' English Historical Review '... a tribute to Malcolmson's diligence and ingenuity as a researcher.' Sociological Review 'Malcolmson tells this story with wit, grace and the precision which comes from wide reading.' Journal of Social History