Leisure in the UK Across the 20th Century

Publication type

Book Chapter

Series Number



Twentieth-Century British Social Trends



Publication date

April 1, 2000


Complex patterns of leisure activities emerge across Britain over the Twentieth Century. Social theorists have posited two general views of the implications of these trends: a suggestion that technological and social developments will enable people to enjoy increasing quantities of leisure time; and a view that patterns of economic consumption and production are both reducing the quantity and diluting the quality of leisure time. Evidence from official statistics, time use studies, and The General Household Survey (largely compiled only over the last four decades) lend some support to the more optimistic prophecies. Access to basic leisure echnologies, like televisions and CD players, has expanded. So too has the range of people enjoying activities from playing sports to eating out - though it is less clear whether the over-all quality of these leisure activities has improved, declined, or remained constant. Over the last 34 years, British people have decreased their mid-century working hours by 40 minutes per week, and gained two hours and twenty minutes more leisure time. Perhaps we might define this change as progress - though at a rate of seven extra weekly hours of leisure per century.

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