Industrial Pastoral: Lake Macquarie Coal Miners’ Holidays
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As Stephen Page and Joanne Connell note in their mapping of the field, leisure studies is a largely post-war development, evolving internationally out of geography, economics, sociology and a range of other disciplines mostly in the social sciences rather than the humanities. Historians have not ignored the subject – there are plenty of historical studies of sports and recreation, the development of national parks, and so on. Yet, while leisure clearly has a vital and dynamic relation to work – culturally, politically, psychologically – labour historians in Australia appear to have been less interested in this area of research. We, the authors of this article, are primarily literary scholars rather than historians, but we have been puzzled by this apparent neglect. It is not our brief to examine the contemporary meanings of ‘leisure’ in relation to ‘work’ (or ‘forced labour,’ to adopt Guy Standing’s important twenty-first century distinction). Instead, our own study of coal miners’ holidays around Lake Macquarie from the late nineteenth and into the second half of the twentieth century considers the bygone rituals and activities of their holidaying from the vantage point of our own present location in an age where ‘simulation and nostalgia lie at the heart of everyday life.’ The article includes memoir and creative writing along with theory and analysis.