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Going Places: Recent Histories of European Tourism


Writing in 1997, Britain's leading historian of tourism John K. Walton lamented that ‘tourism has not been accepted into the charmed circle of acceptable themes in European history’. While it would be premature to suggest that tourism has now been welcomed into this select inner circle on equal terms with more traditional fields of research, there is nevertheless much for historians of tourism to be positive about. Over the course of the last two decades, a growing body of scholarship has demonstrated not only that tourism needs to be taken seriously as a factor that shaped the modern world but also that the study of tourist practices has the potential to shed new light on seemingly familiar historical issues and debates. The complex range of factors that have enabled and hindered tourism's rise towards respectability within historical studies have been discussed in detail elsewhere by prominent exponents of the genre and will not be reiterated here. However, three flourishing and interconnected fields of historical inquiry, to which historians of tourism are making valuable contributions, deserve particular mention. Each of the works discussed below can be situated broadly within these three historiographical trends.

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1 Walton, John K., ‘Taking the History of Tourism Seriously’, European History Quarterly, 27 (1997), 573.

2 Walton, John K., ed., introduction in Histories of Tourism: Representation, Identity and Conflict (Clevedon: Channel View, 2005), 118; Spode, Hasso, ‘La Recherche historique sur le tourisme: Vers une nouvelle approche’, Mondes du tourisme: Revue pluridisciplinaire de recherche, 2 (Dec. 2010), 418; and Rüdiger Hachtmann, ‘Tourismusgeschichte: Ein Mauerblümchen mit Zukunft!’, in H-Soz-u-Kult 06.10.2011, (last viewed 29 Jan. 2014), esp. 1–6.

3 Iriye, Akira, Global and Transnational History: The Past Present and Future (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 75.

4 See, e.g., Zuelow, Eric G. E., Making Ireland Irish: Tourism and National Identity since the Irish Civil War (Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009) and Schaffer, Marguerite, See America First: Tourism and National Identity (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001).

5 Semmens, Kristin, Seeing Hitler's Germany: Tourism in the Third Reich (New York, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Pack, Sasha D., Tourism and Dictatorship: Europe's Peaceful Invasion of Franco's Spain (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Gorsuch, Anne E. and Koenker, Diane P., Turizm: The Russian and East European Tourist under Capitalism and Socialism (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2006).

6 In this sense Young's study adds to a growing literature on the relationship between regions and nations in modern France, often focusing on the Breton case. See, for example, Ford, Caroline, Creating the Nation in Provincial France: Religion and Political Identity in Brittany (Princeton, NJ: Princeton, University Press, 1993) and Gemie, Sharif, Brittany, 1750–1950: The Invisible Nation (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

7 The other major recent study of East German tourism, Wolter, Heike, ‘Ich harre aus im Land und geh, ihm fremd’: Die Geschichte des Tourismus in der DDR (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2009) focuses almost exclusively on the 1970s and 1980s.

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Contemporary European History
  • ISSN: 0960-7773
  • EISSN: 1469-2171
  • URL: /core/journals/contemporary-european-history
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