Wednesday 8 May 2019

Book Review: Palaces of Pleasure by Lee Jackson (Non-Fiction / History)

Title: Palaces of Pleasure
Author: Lee Jackson
Yale University Press

Publication Date: 25 June 2019
eBook - PDF
Modern Classic
ARC via NetGalley

The Victorians invented mass entertainment. As the nineteenth century’s growing industrialized class acquired the funds and the free time to pursue leisure activities, their every whim was satisfied by entrepreneurs building new venues for popular amusement. Contrary to their reputation as dour, buttoned-up prudes, the Victorians reveled in these newly created ‘palaces of pleasure’.

In this vivid, captivating book, Lee Jackson charts the rise of well-known institutions such as gin palaces, music halls, seaside resorts and football clubs, as well as the more peculiar attractions of the pleasure garden and international exposition, ranging from parachuting monkeys and human zoos to theme park thrill rides. He explores how vibrant mass entertainment came to dominate leisure time and how the attempts of religious groups and secular improvers to curb ‘immorality’ in the pub, variety theater and dance hall faltered in the face of commercial success.

The Victorians’ unbounded love of leisure created a nationally significant and influential economic force: the modern entertainment industry.

Palaces of Pleasure was an interesting and entertaining read. Of course, I was aware of gin palaces and music hall, but there were other elements of Victorian entertainment I had never considered before, such as the rise of commercial football. This book will be an engaging and worthwhile read for anyone interested in nineteenth-century social history and will appeal to both serious scholars and casual readers with its careful detail yet accessible prose.

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