The Emotional Economy of British Seaside Holiday-Making 1870-1918

Yaara Benger Alaluf (completed PhD Project, 2018)

Throughout the 19th century, holiday-making at watering places became a major part of the British leisure industry. With the growing popularity of watering places – and the seaside in particular – towards the end of the century, their purpose underwent a shift. This shift is frequently described as a move from the search for physical cure to a new desire for amusement and fun.

This research project seeks to trace the history of this change, placing front and center the relation between emotions and morality and the connections between the leisure economy, medical knowledge, and class. Thus, in contrast to previous studies that interpreted the development of holiday-making as a process of de-pathologization, thereby emphasizing the shift from health to pleasure, I suggest that the general therapeutic perception of watering places did not change – rather, it was simply the pathology itself that changed. Thus, my research focuses on both the emergence of a new pathology related to the emotional implications of work and modern life in general, and the belief that nature, and specifically watering places, are the adequate destination for emotional relief.

By examining diverse sources such as vacation resorts’ advertisements, parliamentary documents, and vacationers’ reviews, the project aims to shed new light on the democratization of seaside holiday-making between 1870 and the First World War, and to unravel the interconnections between emotions, morality, and the market.

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