"A great social force making for order and morality": An analysis of institutions for rational recreation in late Victorian and Edwardian Brisbane

Jamison, Bryan, 1960- (2002). "A great social force making for order and morality": An analysis of institutions for rational recreation in late Victorian and Edwardian Brisbane PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Jamison, Bryan, 1960-
Thesis Title "A great social force making for order and morality": An analysis of institutions for rational recreation in late Victorian and Edwardian Brisbane
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2002-11-02
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Gavin Shanks
Colin Sheehan
Total pages 368
Collection year 2003
Language eng
Subjects 160403 Social and Cultural Geography
210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
430101 History - Australian
Formatted abstract Consideration by historians of Queensland's 'immoral underbelly' remains slight. The narrative that follows seeks to make inter alia a contribution compensating for this lacuna in our knowledge. The subject matter forming the focus of the dissertation is the rational recreation movement in Brisbane during the late Victorian and Early Edwardian years (c1880-1914). It is shown that this movement was a response by evangelically inclined Christians of middle and upper class habitus, to what was perceived as the nefarious leisure pursuits in the capital of Queensland's plebeian strata. Social class and status constitute paramount organising categories for analysis of this movement and form the analytical bedrock for explaining the motivations, emergence, development and consolidation of those specific institutions selected for study.

The importance of other social divisions, particularly gender and generation, has been recognised within the analysis. Rational recreation was organised overwhelmingly in gender segregated environments. For those catering to a male only patronage an emphasis was placed on the absorption of a masculinist ethos designed to better equip Queensland's boys and young men to survive (and by extension secure the same for the colony/ state and nation) in the hyper-competition of globalising capitalism, and to prepare them better to rebut the domestic and public challenges occasioned by "first wave feminism" and the rise of the "New Woman". Institutions for girls and young women sought to reinforce largely traditional domestic responsibilities, especially for young females of plebeian background.

The analysis advanced by the dissertation also incorporates a generational component outlining the various strategies deployed by the rational recreation movement for citizen construction according to age, as well as gender and social class. The strategies of the movement for dealing with the various generations comprising the modernist 'life cycle' informs the analysis presented. Further, the narrative delineates the importance of an undergirding thematic motivating the proponents of rational recreation centred on keenly felt anxieties concerning the nation's putative 'racial degeneration'; anxieties articulated in prognostications by social commentators of Australia's (and thus Queensland's) imminent descent to the status of casualty in the globalising world economy in the years c1880-1914. The rational recreation movement, it is suggested, sought to allay this supposed descent into the netherworld of 'backward' nations, and reverse the trajectory, by preparing in particular the young males of the nation/ state for the tasks of efficient citizenship viewed as crucial for success in the Social Darwinian schema of the "survival of the fittest".

Selected institutions for the provision of rational recreation have been chosen comprising the subject matter of the individual chapters excepting chapter one, which provides a contextualisation of the movement through tracing the development of interconnected campaigns mounted by Brisbane's nebulous moral reform lobby, of which the rational recreation movement formed a 'wing'. These campaigns sought to combat the deleterious effects of plebeian leisure practices deemed 'morally dubious' and 'deviant'. Having established the concerns underpinning the activity of the rational recreation movement the dissertation considers the development in late Victorian and Edwardian Brisbane of working class social clubs (chapter two), youth clubs (chapter three), uniformed youth movements (chapter four), institutes for "intellectual recreation" (chapter five), followed by case studies of two avant institutions - the Young Men's Christian Association (chapter six) and the Brisbane Institute of Social Service (chapter seven) - the latter located in Fortitude Valley, a hub of working class life in the period.

The empirical narrative format of the dissertation has been chosen deliberately. Given the paucity of scholarly work on the subject matter of rational recreation in Queensland I was compelled to "tell the story" of most institutions appearing in the text. However, I have endeavoured to organise the data according to theoretical paradigms, particularly those emanating from critical history and critical sociology. It is intended that the blending of theory (small t it should be emphasised) and narrative delivers a compelling case for understanding the neglected leisure processes of late Victorian and Edwardian Brisbanites as ones intimately shaped by social class, race, gender, generation and contemporary conceptions of masculinity.
Keyword Recreation -- Queensland -- Brisbane -- History.
Brisbane (Qld.) -- Social Life and customs.
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