Five Vicarious Vacations

19 August 2020

Cultural Studies | History

Holidaymakers the world over have put their passports away this summer as the global pandemic continues to make international travel difficult, if not entirely impossible. In an effort to recreate that holiday feeling I’ve been seeking inspiration for future trips in some of the documents published in Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture - The History of Tourism.

This resource reveals 130 years of British and American working-class tourism from c.1850 to 1980 through a multitude of sources including travel journals, guidebooks, maps, photographs and film. Here are my top five dream getaways inspired by the documents found in these digitised collections.

1. The North Pole

North Pole, 1985-1986. Society Expeditions, Adventure Series. © Copyright of this material is retained by the content creators. John W. Hartman Center, Duke University does not claim to hold any copyrights to these materials. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
North Pole, 1985-1986. Society Expeditions, Adventure Series. © Copyright of this material is retained by the content creators. John W. Hartman Center, Duke University does not claim to hold any copyrights to these materials. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Ever fancied travelling by dogsled to stand at 90° North? In 1985, Society Expeditions offered an exclusive 11-day trip promising adventure, breath-taking views and arctic wildlife, all culminating in selfies and sipping champagne at the North Pole.

2. Agra, India

Agra, India, Jan 1957. Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity for the Dept. of Tourism. © Copyright of this material is retained by the content creators. John W. Hartman Center, Duke University does not claim to hold any copyrights to these materials. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Agra, India, Jan 1957. Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity for the Dept. of Tourism. © Copyright of this material is retained by the content creators. John W. Hartman Center, Duke University does not claim to hold any copyrights to these materials. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

This 1957 leaflet celebrates Agra, inviting tourists to marvel at the architecture of the Agra Fort, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It describes the 70 ft high walls and almost 1.5 miles of unbroken masonry as ‘enclosing many relics of old splendour’.

3. Basel, Switzerland

First Escorted Tour by Air to Switzerland: Photograph of the passengers. 14 May 1932. © Permission granted by University of Westminster Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
First Escorted Tour by Air to Switzerland: Photograph of the passengers. 14 May 1932. © Permission granted by University of Westminster Archive. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

This 1932 photograph shows passengers waiting to board the ‘World’s Largest Passenger Air Liner’ as part of one of the first escorted tours from The Polytechnic Touring Association. The P.T.A prided itself on making travel affordable and accessible for middle-class and lower-middle class travellers and the trip departed from Croydon in the UK, stopping in Paris before arriving at its final destination, Basel.

4. The Nile, Egypt

The Nile Voyage by Cook's Steamers 1939-40. © Permission granted by Thomas Cook Archives. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
The Nile Voyage by Cook's Steamers 1939-40. © Permission granted by Thomas Cook Archives. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture includes the archives of Thomas Cook, founded in 1841 as Thomas Cook and Sons. Thomas Cook was the world’s oldest travel agency well-known for their package tours all over the globe. This brochure from 1939 advertises luxury tours of Egypt and the Nile on a Cook’s Nile Steamer. Tourists would stop in Cairo, Aswan, Sakkara, Memphis and take in Egypt’s ‘kaleidoscopic charm’ of rivers, ruins, hills, mountains, and desert scenes.

5. Coney Island, USA

Otto Dreschmeyer Brooklyn Slides (Coney Island), 1965-1968. © Brooklyn Historical Society. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Otto Dreschmeyer Brooklyn Slides (Coney Island), 1965-1968. © Brooklyn Historical Society. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Coney Island has been a magnet for day-trippers since the mid-1800s and reached the height of its popularity during the first part of 20th century. These images from the Otto Dreschmeyer Slide Collection at the Brooklyn Historical Society reveal two of its biggest attractions, the beaches and the amusements. The Coney Island Cyclone is one of the United States’ oldest wooden rollercoasters, built in 1927 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.


For more information about Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Full access restricted to authenticated academic institutions which have purchased a licence.

About the Author

Ellie Davey Corrigan

I am a Development Editor at Adam Matthew, having joined the team in 2015. My academic background lies in Classical History and Languages but as an editor in academic publishing I have worked across a variety of subjects from Business, Marketing and Gender Studies to International Relations. I am enjoying getting back to my historical roots working on a wide range of new projects at Adam Matthew.