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Palaces of Pleasure: How the Victorians Invented Mass Entertainment

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Contrary to their reputation as dour, buttoned-up prudes, the Victorians knew how to be frivolous and have fun. Join Victorianist and author Lee Jackson for a fascinating virtual event, hosted by national charity The Reading Agency, in which he will discuss his book, Palaces of Pleasure: How the Victorians Invented Mass Entertainment.

In his latest book, Lee charts the rise of well-known institutions such as gin palaces, music halls, seaside resorts and football clubs, as well as the more peculiar attractions of the pleasure garden and international exposition, ranging from parachuting monkeys to theme park thrill rides.

He explores how vibrant mass entertainment came to dominate leisure time and how the attempts of religious groups and secular improvers to curb ‘immorality’ in the pub, variety theatre and dance hall faltered in the face of commercial success. The Victorians’ unbounded love of leisure created a nationally significant and influential economic force: the modern entertainment industry.

About Lee Jackson

Lee Jackson is a well-known Victorianist and creator of the pre-eminent website on Victorian London ( He is the author of Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth and Walking Dickens’ London.

About the event

Duration: 60 mins

Lee Jackson will appear in conversation with Yale University Press publishing director. The event will close with an audience Q&A.

This event will be hosted via Zoom webinar. You will receive a link to join the event in your confirmation email once you have registered.

About the organiser

Organiser: The Reading Agency

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