Leisure is widely recognised as an increasingly significant component of life in modern Western society and has for some time been given serious attention by sociologists and a variety of social commentators and planners, yet it is an area which until recently has been greatly neglected by historians. In the latters’ conventional hierarchy of human activities, leisure has most often been a mere appendix, an unexplored and scarcely acknowledged minor tributary to the mainstream of history. The subject has been left to the amateur student of manners, the antiquarian or the folklorist, whose enthusiasms and industry have rarely been matched by any regard for historical perspective or social context. Within the last few years, however, the increasing range and confidence of the modern social historian (a pullulating breed) have brought several aspects of the field under scholarly examination. In the new canon of studies, leisure time and its activities are acknowledged as a significant element of social experience, whose history is of particular importance in the broader exercise of reconstructing the kind of life lived by the ordinary people of the past. To this end, the main focus of recent attention has been on popular rather than elitist recreations, though the best of the new work has been Concerned to understand them not only in the context of their own culture but in relation to the structure of society as a whole and the wider patterns of social change. From such endeavours in modern British studies some kind of intelligible and coherent map of the field is emerging.