- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: I.B.Tauris (December 3, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1860644465
- ISBN-13: 978-1860644467
- Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,750,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Christmas: A Social History
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
From Kirkus Reviews
Connelly (History/Lancaster Univ.) examines the antiquity and cultural significance of the English Christmas in this convincing response to the invented-institution thesis recently fashionable in popular studies. The English Christmas is hardly some Victorian fabrication or over-elaboration, claims Connelly in answer to some cultural- studies theorists, but a timeworn expression of national valuesat least, values of the period between 1780, when the holiday season went into a brief eclipse, and the Age of Television, which co-opted Christmas Day into a consumerism epitomized by American retailing techniques. Let there be no doubt, he continues in sometimes labored though oddly beguiling prose: The English Christmas was essentially invented by the Victorians. Yet, more importantly, there are also continuities and commitments to the past that act not just as survivals within the Victorian trappings, but indeed underpin Christmas, and particularly its English expression: the open-handedness displayed by early Anglo-Saxons in their wintertime rituals; a responsibility typified by Queen Elizabeth's demand for nobles and gentry to do their duty in displaying hospitality to their tenants during the twelve days of Christmas; the honest mirth, social leveling, and political pranks seen in the harlequinades and pantomimes at court; and the seasonal joys of returning to home and hearth. Connelly also finds that the beauty and grace of carols are at the heart of the songs that fired the genius of English music and inspired her composers. The English people would never have responded so deliriously to A Christmas Carol had not ingrained attitudes served as referents. The popular media may tout the vulgarity and commercialism of Christmas, yet Connelly wagers that if you scratch an English Yuletide merrymaker you'll find someone taking comfort ``in the tokens of the old world'': an ancient, bucolic vision imbued with a sense of antiquity, decency, generosity, and fair play. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
I just loved this book. There are long detailed chapters about how the Victorians idolized the medieval Christmas (something I also noted in those old issues of "St. Nicholas" magazine; lots of stories of knights of old celebrating Christmas), the origins of the unique English pantomimes and how even in the late 19th century people were complaining that they weren't as good as they used to be because they failed to use the original characters like Harlequin anymore, how post-Victorian Britons rejected the folk carols in favor of "real" English music, plus more chapters about different celebrations around the Empire (was a warm weather Christmas even "legitimate"?), the spread of commercialism in the celebration, Christmas in relation to radio broadcasts (including the Monarch's classic speech), and Christmas in British films and on British television. It's a real treat if you are interested in the history of the holiday and especially of how the British have contributed to the celebration and our conceptions of Christmas.
He said in the Introduction, "This book will examine how Christmas developed in England from around 1780 to 1952... an idea grew up about the nature of the modern Christmas. This idea was that, like many other aspects of our modern life, it had been largely invented out of nothing. It became almost a dogma that the Victorians had invented Christmas using a few scraps of historical evidence... This book will seek to question those attitudes. Invention just seems too strong a word... It is the argument of this book that what Christmas became in the nineteenth century was an inflation, a beautifully augmented season, but it was not invented." (Pg. 1-2)
He observes, "this study does not seek to prove that the observation of Christmas in England is a seamless historical chain stretching back to the earliest days of Christianity in the British Isles. Significant changes in the way Christmas was conceived and celebrated did occur in the early nineteenth century... Thus, if Christmas was artificially devised in the early nineteenth century, it was done so unconsciously... The Victorians... [were] obsessed with the fact that Christmas was, supposedly, dying out rapidly and irrevocably. By the 1830s the seemingly obvious imperative was to conserve rather than invent, to revive rather than inaugurate." (Pg. ix-x)
He says, "whether he claimed it or not, [Charles] Dickens was regarded as the heart of Christmas by the early twentieth century. Further, both his champions and detractors believed this too." (Pg. 42) He notes, "the present author cannot find much genuine evidence that the carol was on the verge of extinction in this period. There was certainly a lot of literature produced proclaiming that fact, but by the same token there is always enough evidence to suggest that carols were known and sung." (Pg. 66) Later, he adds, "That the carol was languishing a little during the early part of the nineteenth century does seem a reasonable assumption. However, what does not appear reasonable is the assumption that it was 'knocking on death's door.'" (Pg. 99)
He suggests, "The [British] Empire was being made smaller and the family spirit was being promoted by the air mail scheme in general and the Christmas mails in particular. That the air mails improved the sense of unity in the Empire is clear from the sense of isolation felt in the most far-flung parts of the Empire." (Pg. 123-124) He also argues that "The BBC quickly established itself as an ally of the English Christmas... it took on board and gave a new vibrancy to many seemingly ancient and venerable components of the English Christmas... It was, in short, a middle-class version of the Empire... the BBC's programmes linked British people across the world and promoted the English Christmas still further as a day of national and imperial unity." (Pg. 157) Later, he adds, "The television is crucial to the way in which Christmas is celebrated, and has been so since the 1950s." (Pg. 205)
This is an excellent and very informative book, that will be of considerable interest to lovers of the holiday---particularly its English aspect.