Leisure has often been defined as a quality of experience or as free
time. Free time is time spent away from business, work, job
hunting, domestic chores, and education, as well as necessary
activities such as eating and sleeping. From a research perspective,
this approach has the advantages of being quantifiable and comparable
over time and place.
Leisure as experience usually emphasizes dimensions of perceived
freedom and choice. It is done for "its own sake", for the quality of
experience and involvement. Other classic definitions include
Thorsten Veblen's (1899) of "nonproductive consumption of time."
Different disciplines have definitions reflecting their common issues:
for example, sociology on social forces and contexts and psychology as
mental and emotional states and conditions.
Leisure studies and sociology of leisure are the academic disciplines
concerned with the study and analysis of leisure.
from leisure in that it is a purposeful activity that includes the
experience of leisure in activity contexts.
The distinction between leisure and unavoidable activities is not a
rigidly defined one, e.g. people sometimes do work-oriented tasks for
pleasure as well as for long-term utility. A distinction may also
be drawn between free time and leisure. For example, Situationist
International maintains that free time is illusory and rarely fully
"free"; economic and social forces appropriate free time from the
individual and sell it back to them as the commodity known as
"leisure". Certainly most people's leisure activities are not a
completely free choice and may be constrained by social pressures,
e.g. people may be coerced into spending time gardening by the need to
keep up with the standard of neighbouring gardens or go to a party
because of social pressures.
A related concept is that of social leisure, which involves leisurely
activities in social settings, such as extracurricular activities,
e.g. sports, clubs. Another related concept is that of family leisure.
Relationships with others is usually a major factor in both
satisfaction and choice.
1 History of leisure
1.3 United Kingdom
2.1 Serious leisure
2.2 Casual leisure
2.3 Project-based leisure
3 Cultural differences
4 Family leisure
6 See also
8 Further reading
8.1 History of leisure
9 External links
History of leisure
Leisure has historically been the privilege of the upper-class.
Opportunities for leisure came with more money, or organization, and
less working time, rising dramatically in the mid to late 19th
century, starting in Great Britain and spreading to other rich nations
in Europe. It spread as well to the United States, although that
country had a reputation in
Europe for providing much less leisure
despite its wealth. Immigrants to the
United States discovered they
had to work harder than they did in Europe. Economists continue to
investigate why Americans work longer hours. In a recent book,
Laurent Turcot argues that leisure was not created in the 19th century
but is imbricated in the occidental world since the beginning of
In Canada, leisure in the country is related to the decline in work
hours and is shaped by moral values, and the ethnic-religious and
gender communities. In a cold country with winter's long nights, and
summer's extended daylight, favorite leisure activities include horse
racing, team sports such as hockey, singalongs, roller skating and
board games. The churches tried to steer leisure
activities, by preaching against drinking and scheduling annual
revivals and weekly club activities. By 1930 radio played a major
role in uniting Canadians behind their local or regional hockey teams.
Play-by-play sports coverage, especially of ice hockey, absorbed fans
far more intensely than newspaper accounts the next day. Rural areas
were especially influenced by sports coverage.
Leisure by the mid 19th century was no longer an individualistic
activity. It was increasingly organized. In the French industrial city
of Lille, with a population of 80,000 in 1858, the cabarets or taverns
for the working class numbered 1300, or one for every three houses.
Lille counted 63 drinking and singing clubs, 37 clubs for card
players, 23 for bowling, 13 for skittles, and 18 for archery. The
churches likewise have their social organizations. Each club had a
long roster of officers, and a busy schedule of banquets, festivals
A caricature of upper class Victorian tourists, 1852
As literacy, wealth, ease of travel, and a broadened sense of
community grew in Britain from the mid 19th century onward, there was
more time and interest in leisure activities of all sorts, on the part
of all classes.
Opportunities for leisure activities increased because real wages
continued to grow and hours of work continued to decline. In urban
Britain, the nine-hour day was increasingly the norm; 1874 factory act
limited the workweek to 56.5 hours. The movement toward an eight-hour
day. Furthermore, system of routine annual vacations came into play,
starting with white-collar workers and moving into the
working-class. Some 200 seaside resorts emerged thanks to
cheap hotels and inexpensive railway fares, widespread banking
holidays and the fading of many religious prohibitions against secular
activities on Sundays.
By the late Victorian era, the leisure industry had emerged in all
British cities, and the pattern was copied across Western
North America. It provided scheduled entertainment of suitable length
and convenient locales at inexpensive prices. These include sporting
events, music halls, and popular theater. By 1880 football was no
longer the preserve of the social elite, as it attracted large
working-class audiences. Average gate was 5,000 in 1905, rising to
23,000 in 1913. That amounted to 6 million paying customers with a
weekly turnover of £400,000. Sports by 1900 generated some three
percent of the total gross national product in Britain.
Professionalization of sports was the norm, although some new
activities reached an upscale amateur audience, such as lawn tennis
and golf. Women were now allowed in some sports, such as archery,
tennis, badminton and gymnastics.
Leisure was primarily a male activity, with middle-class women allowed
in at the margins. There were class differences with upper-class
clubs, and working-class and middle-class pubs. Heavy drinking
declined; there was more betting on outcomes. Participation in sports
and all sorts of leisure activities increased for average English
people, and their interest in spectator sports increased
By the 1920s the cinema and radio attracted all classes, ages, and
genders in very large numbers. Giant palaces were built for the huge
audiences that wanted to see Hollywood films. In Liverpool 40 percent
of the population attended one of the 69 cinemas once a week; 25
percent went twice. Traditionalists grumbled about the American
cultural invasion, but the permanent impact was minor.
The British showed a more profound interest in sports, and in greater
variety, that any rival. They gave pride of place to such moral issues
as sportsmanship and fair play.
Cricket became symbolic of the
Imperial spirit throughout the Empire. Soccer proved highly attractive
to the urban working classes, which introduced the rowdy spectator to
the sports world. In some sports, there was significant controversy in
the fight for amateur purity especially in rugby and rowing. New games
became popular almost overnight, including golf, lawn tennis, cycling
and hockey. Women were much more likely to enter these sports than the
old established ones. The aristocracy and landed gentry, with their
ironclad control over land rights, dominated hunting, shooting,
fishing and horse racing.
Cricket had become well-established among the English upper class in
the 18th century, And was a major factor in sports competition among
the public schools. Army units around the Empire had time on their
hands, and encouraged the locals to learn cricket so they could have
some entertaining competition. Most of the Empire embraced cricket,
with the exception of Canada.
Cricket test matches (international)
began by the 1870s; the most famous is that between Australia and
Britain for "The Ashes."
As literacy and leisure time expanded after 1900, reading became a
popular pastime. New additions to adult fiction doubled during the
1920s, reaching 2800 new books a year by 1935. Libraries tripled their
stock, and saw heavy demand for new fiction. A dramatic innovation
was the inexpensive paperback, pioneered by
Allen Lane (1902–70) at
Penguin Books in 1935. The first titles included novels by Ernest
Hemingway and Agatha Christie. They were sold cheap (usually sixpence)
in a wide variety of inexpensive stores such as Woolworth's. Penguin
aimed at an educated middle class "middlebrow" audience. It avoided
the downscale image of American paperbacks. The line signaled cultural
self-improvement and political education. The more polemical Penguin
Specials, typically with a leftist orientation for Labour readers,
were widely distributed during World War II. However the war years
caused a shortage of staff for publishers and book stores, and a
severe shortage of rationed paper, worsened by the air raid on
Paternoster Square in 1940 that burned 5 million books in
Romantic fiction was especially popular, with
Mills and Boon the
leading publisher. Romantic encounters were embodied in a
principle of sexual purity that demonstrated not only social
conservatism, but also how heroines could control their personal
autonomy. Adventure magazines became quite popular, especially
those published by DC Thomson; the publisher sent observers around the
country to talk to boys and learn what they wanted to read about. The
story line in magazines and cinema that most appealed to boys was the
glamorous heroism of British soldiers fighting wars that were exciting
The range of leisure activities extends from the very informal and
casual to highly organised and long lasting activities. A significant
subset of leisure activities are hobbies which are undertaken for
personal satisfaction, usually on a regular basis, and often result in
satisfaction through skill development or recognised achievement,
sometimes in the form of a product. The list of hobbies is ever
changing as society changes.
Substantial and fulfilling hobbies and pursuits are described by
Stebbins as serious leisure. The Serious
Leisure Perspective is a
way of viewing the wide range of leisure pursuits in three main
categories: Casual Leisure, Serious Leisure, and Project-based
"Serious leisure is the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or
volunteer ... that is highly substantial, interesting, and fulfilling
and where ... participants find a [leisure] career...". For
example, collecting stamps or maintaining a public wetland area.
People undertaking serious leisure can be categorised as amateurs,
volunteers or hobbyists. Their engagement is distinguished from casual
leisure by a high level of perseverance, effort, knowledge and
training required and durable benefits and the sense that one can
create in effect a leisure career through such activity.
The range of serious leisure activities is growing rapidly in modern
times with developed societies having greater leisure time,
longevity and prosperity. The internet is providing increased support
for amateurs and hobbyists to communicate, display and share products.
"Casual leisure is immediately, intrinsically rewarding; and it is a
relatively short-lived, pleasurable activity requiring little or no
special training to enjoy it." For example, watching TV or going
for a swim.
"Project-based leisure is a short-term, moderately complicated, either
one-shot or occasional, though infrequent, creative undertaking
carried out in free time." For example, working on a single
article or building a garden feature.
GI Card Game, Watercolor by James Pollock, U. S. Army Vietnam Combat
Artists Team IV (CAT IV 1967). During the Vietnam War soldiers waiting
to go on patrol would sometimes spend their leisure time playing
cards. Courtesy National Museum of the
United States Army.
Time available for leisure varies from one society to the next,
although anthropologists have found that hunter-gatherers tend to have
significantly more leisure time than people in more complex
societies. As a result, band societies such as the
Shoshone of the
Great Basin came across as extraordinarily lazy to
Workaholics, less common than the social myths, are those who work
compulsively at the expense of other activities. They prefer to work
rather than spend time socializing and engaging in other leisure
Men generally have more leisure time than women, due to both household
and parenting responsibilities and increasing participation in the
paid employment. In
Europe and the United States, adult men usually
have between one and nine hours more leisure time than women do each
Family leisure is defined as time that parents and children spend
together in free time or recreational activities, and it can be
expanded to address intergenerational family leisure as time that
grandparents, parents, and grandchildren spend together in free time
or recreational activities.
Leisure can become a central place for
the development of emotional closeness and strong family bonds.
Contexts such as urban/rural shape the perspectives, meanings, and
experiences of family leisure. For example, leisure moments are part
of work in rural areas, and the rural idyll is enacted by urban
families on weekends, but both urban and rural families somehow
romanticize rural contexts as ideal spaces for family making
(connection to nature, slower and more intimate space, notion of a
caring social fabric, tranquillity, etc.). Also, much "family
leisure" requires tasks that are most often assigned to women.
Leisure is important across the lifespan and can facilitate a sense of
control and self-worth. Older adults, specifically, can benefit
from physical, social, emotional, cultural, and spiritual aspects of
Leisure engagement and relationships are commonly central to
"successful" and satisfying aging. For example, engaging in
leisure with grandchildren can enhance feelings of generativity,
whereby older adults can achieve well-being by leaving a legacy beyond
themselves for future generations.
The Theory of the
Travel + Leisure
Waiting for the Weekend
^ a b Kelly, John (1996). Leisure, 3rd edition. Boston and London:
Allyn and Bacon. pp. 17–27. ISBN 0-13-110561-2.
^ Neulinger, John (1981). To Leisure: An Introduction. Ann Arbor, MI:
Allyn and Bacon. pp. 10–26. ISBN 0-20-506936-3.
^ Laurent Turcot, "The origins of leisure", International Innovation,
April 2016, 
^ Veblen, Thorsten (1953). The Theory of the
Leisure Class. New York:
New American Library. p. 46.
^ Goodin, Robert E.; Rice, James Mahmud; Bittman, Michael; &
Saunders, Peter. (2005). "The time-pressure illusion: Discretionary
time vs free time". Social Indicators Research 73(1), 43–70.
Time pressure" (PDF))
Situationist International #9 (1964) "Questionnaire, section 12"
^ Peter N. Stearns, ed., Encyclopedia of European social history from
1350 to 2000 (2001) 5:3-261.
^ Mark Wyman (1993). Round-trip to America: The Immigrants Return to
Europe, 1880-1930. Cornell University Press. p. 53.
^ Edward C. Prescott, "Why do Americans work so much more than
Europeans?" (No. w10316. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2004)
^ Laurent Turcot, Sports et Loisirs. Une histoire des origines à nos
jours. Paris, Gallimard, 2016.
^ Suzanne Morton, "Leisure," Oxford Companion to Canadian History
(2006) pp 355-56.
^ George Karlis,
Leisure and recreation in Canadian society: An
^ Gerald Redmond, "Some Aspects of Organized Sport and
Nineteenth-Century Canada." Loisir et société/Society and Leisure
2#1 (1979): 71-100.
^ Lynne Sorrel Marks (1996). Revivals and Roller Rinks: Religion,
Leisure, and Identity in Late-nineteenth-century Small-town
^ Lorenz, Stacy L. (2000). "A Lively Interest on the Prairies":
Western Canada, the Mass Media, and a 'World of Sport,' 1870-1939".
Journal of Sport History. 27 (2): 195–227.
^ Theodore Zeldin, France, 1848-1945, vol. 2, Intellect, Taste and
Anxiety (1977) pp 2:270-71.
^ a b Peter J. Beck, "
Leisure and Sport in Britain." in Chris Wrigley,
ed., A Companion to Early Twentieth-Century Britain (2008): 453-69.
^ G. R. Searle, A New England?: Peace and War, 1886-1918 (Oxford
University Press, 2004), 529-70.
^ Hugh Cunningham, Time, work and leisure: Life changes in England
since 1700 (2014)
^ John K. Walton, The English seaside resort. A social history
^ Searle, A New England? pp 547-53
^ Peter Haydon, The English pub: a history (1994).
^ John K. Walton,
Leisure in Britain, 1780-1939 (1983).
^ Charles Loch Mowat, Britain between the Wars 1918-1940 (1955) pp
^ Derek Birley, Land of sport and glory: Sport and British society,
^ Cooper, David (1999). "Canadians Declare 'It Isn't Cricket': A
Century of Rejection of the Imperial Game, 1860-1960". Journal of
Sport History. 26: 51–81.
^ Derek Birley, A Social History of English
Cricket (1999) excerpt
^ Cottle, Basil (1978). "Popular Reading And Our Public Libraries: The
Abjured Prescription". Library Review. 27: 222–227.
^ Nicholas Joicey, "A Paperback Guide to Progress: Penguin Books
1935–c. 1951." Twentieth Century British History 4#1 (1993): 25-56.
^ Joseph McAleer, Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain: 1914-1950
^ Joseph McAleer, Passion's fortune: the story of Mills & Boon
^ Nicola Humble, The Feminine Middlebrow Novel, 1920s to 1950s: Class,
Domesticity, and Bohemianism (2001).
^ Alison Light, Forever England: femininity, literature and
conservatism between the wars (1991).
^ Ernest Sackville Turner, Boys Will Be Boys: The Story of Sweeney
Todd, Deadwood Dick, Sexton Blake, Billy Bunter, Dick Barton et al.
(3rd ed. 1975).
^ a b c Stebbins, Robert (2015). Serious
Leisure - A Perspective for
Out Time. New Brunswick USA: Transaction Publishers.
^ "The Serious
Leisure Perspective (SLP)". The Serious Leisure
Perspective (SLP). Retrieved 18 February 2016.
^ a b c "Concepts". The Serious
Leisure Perspective (SLP). Retrieved
18 February 2016.
^ Farb, Peter (1968). Man's Rise to Civilization As Shown by the
Indians of North America from Primeval Times to the Coming of the
Industrial State. New York City: E.P. Dutton. p. 28.
LCC E77.F36. Most people assume that the members of the Shoshone
band worked ceaselessly in an unremitting search for sustenance. Such
a dramatic picture might appear confirmed by an erroneous theory
almost everyone recalls from schooldays: A high culture emerges only
when the people have the leisure to build pyramids or to create art.
The fact is that high civilization is hectic, and that primitive
hunters and collectors of wild food, like the Shoshone, are among the
most leisured people on earth.
^ OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Society
at a Glance 2009: OE. See image at dx.doi.org
^ Shaw, S. M. (1997). "Controversies and contradictions in family
leisure: An analysis of conflicting paradigms". Journal of Leisure
Research. 29 (1): 98–112.
^ a b Hebblethwaite, Shannon (2014). "Grannie's got to go fishing":
meanings and experiences of family leisure for three-generation
families in rural and urban settings". World
Leisure Journal. 56 (1):
^ Rye, J (2006). "Rural youths' images of the rural". Journal of Rural
Studies. 22: 409–421. doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2006.01.005.
^ Kleiber, D. A., Walker, G. J., & Mannell, R. C. (2011). A social
psychology of leisure. Venture Pub., Incorporated.
^ Kelly, ed., John (1993). Activity and Aging. Newbury Park and
London: Sage. pp. 125–145. ISBN 0-8039-5273-2. CS1
maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
^ Hebblethwaite, S.; Norris, J. (2011). "Expressions of generativity
through family leisure: Experiences of grandparents and adult
grandchildren". Family Relations. 60 (1): 121–133.
Cross, Gary S. Encyclopedia of recreation and leisure in America.
Harris, David. Key concepts in leisure studies. (Sage, 2005)
Hunnicutt, Benjamin Kline. Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream.
(Temple University Press, 2013).
Leisure and society: a comparative approach (1991).
Jenkins, John M., and J.J.J. Pigram. Encyclopedia of leisure and
outdoor recreation. (Routledge, 2003). ISBN 0-415-25226-1.
Kostas Kalimtzis. An Inquiry into the Philosophical Concept of
Leisure As a Political End. London; New York: Bloomsbury,
Rojek, Chris, Susan M. Shaw, and A.J. Veal, eds/ A Handbook of Leisure
History of leisure
Abrams, Lynn. Workers' culture in imperial Germany: leisure and
recreation in the Rhineland and Westphalia (2002).
Beck, Peter J. "
Leisure and Sport in Britain." in Chris Wrigley, ed.,
A Companion to Early Twentieth-Century Britain (2008): 453-69.
Borsay, Peter. A History of Leisure: The British Experience since 1500
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).
Burke, Peter. "The Invention of
Leisure in Early Modern Europe". In:
Past and Present 146 (1995), p. 136-150.
Cross, Gary. A social history of leisure since 1600 (1990).
De Grazia, Victoria. The culture of consent: mass organisation of
leisure in fascist Italy (2002).
Hatcher, John. "Labour,
Leisure and Economic Thought before the
Nineteenth Century". In: Past and Present 160 (1998), p. 64-115.
Koshar, Rudy. Histories of
Levinson, David, and Karen Christensen. Encyclopedia of world sport:
from ancient times to the present (Oxford UP, 1999).
Marrus, Michael R. The Emergence of Leisure. New York 1974
Poser, Stefan: Freizeit und Technik, European History Online,
Institute of European History, 2011, retrieved: 1 March 2013.
Time and Technology, European History Online,
Mainz: Institute of European History, 2011, retrieved: 25 October
Stearns, Peter N. ed. Encyclopedia of European social history from
1350 to 2000 (2001) 5:3-261; 18 essays by experts
Struna, Nancy L. People of Prowess Sport
Leisure and Labor in Early
Anglo-America (1996) excerpt
Towner, John, and Geoffrey Wall. "History and tourism." Annals of
Tourism Research 18.1 (1991): 71-84. online
Towner, John. "The Grand Tour: a key phase in the history of tourism."
Annals of tourism research 12#3 (1985): 297-333.
Turcot, Laurent Sports et Loisirs. Une histoire des origines à nos
jours, Paris, Gallimard, 2016.
Turcot, Laurent "The origins of Leisure", International Innovation,
April 2016 
Walton, John K.
Leisure in Britain, 1780-1939 (1983).
Withey, Lynne. Grand Tours and Cook's Tours: A history of leisure
travel, 1750 to 1915 (1997).
Akyeampong, Emmanuel, and Charles Ambler. "
Leisure in African history:
An introduction." International journal of African historical studies
35#1 (2002): 1-16.
Mommaas, Hans, et al.
Leisure research in Europe: methods and
traditions (Cab international, 1996), on France, Poland, Netherlands,
Spain, Belgium, and the UK.
Ritter, Gerhard A (1978). "Workers' culture in Imperial Germany:
problems and points of departure for research". Journal of
Contemporary History. 13 (2): 165–189.
doi:10.1177/002200947801300201. JSTOR 260112.
Schiller, Kay; Young, Christopher (2009). "The history and
historiography of sport in Germany: Social, cultural and political
perspectives". German History. 27 (3): 313–330.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leisure.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Leisure
Peter Burke, The invention of leisure in early modern Europe, Past
& Present, February 1995
The Development of
Leisure Amongst the Social Classes During the
Leisure Perspective (SLP)". The Serious Leisure
Perspective (SLP). Retrieved 17 February 2016.
Leisure Perspective". My Nephew's Take on
Leisure (SMD). Retrieved 19