Travel and Tourism

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated


Stephen L. Harp

Until the late twentieth century the history of travel and tourism was not a serious subject for historical inquiry. Before the advent of social history, political historians duly noted where decisions and pronouncements were made, and the place of leisure travel became obvious in retrospect. King William of Prussia had, of course, been taking the waters and enjoying the social scene at Ems when the Ems dispatch was issued in 1870, provoking the French to declare war. General Philippe Pétain's World War II government, Vichy, is named for the southern French spa town that possessed abundant hotel rooms to accommodate a government forced out of Paris. Even the emergent field of social history initially left the study of tourism at the margins. Gradually, the careful analysis of workers, peasants, the bourgeoisie, and eventually women, that is, specific social groups, was extended to cover cultural practices besides work. The neglect of travel and tourism has been an unfortunate missed opportunity. The history of travel and the increasing participation in leisure travel of various social groups reveals the degree to which those groups used it to set themselves off from others and thus to construct, mentally and materially, differences of class and gender as "natural" social divides. In modern Europe travel was as much a defining characteristic of social position as the work with which it was so often contrasted.


Europeans, particularly but not exclusively social and political elites, had long traveled for purposes of trade, migration, and warfare. In the Middle Ages religious pilgrimage, such as the physical journey to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and other sites, mirrored the spiritual journey of the pilgrim. During the Renaissance, as artists and writers in northern Europe placed yet more emphasis on their classical forebears, trips to the sites of ancient Rome were in many respects a secular form of this ongoing cultural enrichment. Although such travel affected a very small number of Europeans, it served as an important precedent in that it gave excursions to Italy a certain cultural imprimatur useful within upper circles of northern European society.

In the seventeenth and especially eighteenth centuries, aristocratic and wealthy British families increasingly sent their sons on a Grand Tour of Europe. Experiencing a Grand Tour set a young Englishman apart from his contemporaries, not to mention his social inferiors. For the growing upper-middle class, a tour of classical ruins was construed as cultural training not unlike attending university. Lasting for several months, a tour usually included Paris and other major European capitals and was almost always dominated by the Italian cities. Despite intermittent political conflict and religious differences between France and Britain in the eighteenth century, the political and military importance of France, a cause of its linguistic and cultural importance in ancien régime Europe, made Paris and Versailles necessary stops. On the Italian Peninsula, Venice, Florence, Rome (including the digs at Pompei), and sometimes Naples were must-sees, and Genoa and Turin usually figured as stopping points en route from the Alpine crossing to the south. Although young and sometimes older men, and more rarely women, from other European countries also made the journey to Italy—among them Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—contemporary reports point out that the British, bankrolled by profits from growing trade, were the most likely to go on tour. Art collections, architecture, classical ruins, and brothels apparently were the main attractions.

Dominated by the wealthy and the noble, the Grand Tour in the eighteenth century was in many respects personal, and connections governed access. Before the French Revolution collections of European paintings were in private residences, not museums, so letters of introduction were often necessary to gain admittance. The opportunity to meet the leading writers of the eighteenth century depended as well on admittance to a salon or the granting of a private audience. As a young man on tour, James Boswell, a lawyer and later the biographer of Samuel Johnson, obtained audiences with leading European literary lights, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire, as well as the royalty and nobility of Europe by judiciously using letters of introduction from other important personages (Withey, 1997).

Logistical difficulties precluded large numbers of people from going on tour in the eighteenth century. Even the aristocracy and the emerging upper middle class had estates to manage and professions to practice. While it is true that in the eighteenth century well-developed roads and reliable coach service were available, particularly in France, a Grand Tour still required months of travel. The costs in transportation, accommodation, and time were substantial. The highest estimates are that at most 15,000 to 20,000 Britons—less than 1 percent of the total population—went abroad each year in the mid-eighteenth century (Towner, 1996). Never involving many Europeans, the Grand Tour bestowed a relatively exclusive social distinction on travelers when they returned home.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars interrupted travel, particularly by the British, until 1815. In the nineteenth century the idea of the Grand Tour remained an important image as the numbers of Europeans with the time and financial resources to travel grew. Napoleon's road building across France and through the Alps facilitated access and reduced travel times. Following the example of the Louvre, which became public during the French Revolution, museums opened their doors. The populations that could afford to tour grew. The number of traveling women, escorted by family members, servants, and friends in addition to husbands and fathers, steadily increased. In fact the growing ranks of the bourgeoisie coincided with longer tours by women, sometimes joined for parts of the trip by husbands, fathers, and brothers otherwise practicing their trades.

Both evolving aesthetics and accessibility changed the destinations and the perceptions of early-nineteenth-century tourists. Whereas the agricultural productivity of plains had been of some interest to earlier tourists, who considered their trips an education in economics as well as art, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries literary and artistic interest in romanticism brought seascapes and mountains into the forefront of interesting sights in many tourists' estimations. The Alps, long considered a mere untamed obstacle en route to Italy, became a destination in their own right and an important stop on many a Grand Tour. Mountain climbing for the few and hiking for the many became primary attractions. In Italy romantic sensibilities led to interest in Gothic cathedrals along with the classical monuments. Gothic cathedrals in France and the German states became destinations rather than examples of medieval backwardness before the Renaissance. In the nineteenth century the few travelers to Greece, which became more accessible after its independence from the Ottoman Empire, were in search of classical ruins overrun by vegetation and partially destroyed by time. Lord Byron's poetry was an obvious inspiration. During the period 1792–1815, the heyday of early romanticism, the British Lake District so dear to William Wordsworth became a primary alternative for wealthy British tourists unable to tour the Continent. With a volume of Wordsworth in hand, visitors sought the uncontrolled nature he described. Ironically, in a pattern that became familiar to twentieth-century tourism. Wordsworth's descriptions of such places led to their exploitation as tourist sights; travelers in search of a wild nature undisturbed by human presence were met with people just like themselves.


In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the British and then the continental European aristocracy and bourgeoisie "discovered" both the spa and the seaside. In both cases the relatively unfettered access to and use of the waters in the old regime ended abruptly as middle-class usage grew in the early nineteenth century. Bourgeois notions of social propriety and medical doctors' attempts to assert their professional credentials led to the strict regulation of bathing in both spas and at seaside resorts.

Named for Spa, a well-known spring of mineral water in what came to be known as Belgium after 1830, spas had long existed in Europe. The Romans established baths filled with spring water, and some of those same baths remained in operation throughout the Middle Ages. They attracted local inhabitants and the infirm from farther away long before the aristocracy and then the bourgeoisie began to patronize them in larger numbers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In Hungary the Roman baths experienced a boom in the eighteenth century (Towner, 1996). Improved roads and coach service made baths across Europe more accessible, and towns such as Bath in western England, Vichy in south-central France, and Baden-Baden in the southwestern German state of Baden became important destinations.

Into the eighteenth century baths remained large pools in the open air, situated within the towns and open without charge to all who wished to bathe. Although only scattered evidence has survived, it appears that in the early modern period bathers of both sexes and from all social groups wore little clothing while frolicking in the baths. Doctors directed patients to take the waters either by drinking from the spring or by bathing, but the amount imbibed and length of bathing time varied greatly, left above all to the discretion of the patient. By the early nineteenth century, however, as bourgeois usage grew dramatically, so too did the expectations for regulation of access. In France the open-air pools largely disappeared, replaced by individual bathing compartments in which a bather would not come into contact with anyone but the spa staff. At least in France, the strict separation of the sexes and careful attention to appropriate attire resulted in part from women's complaints of men's behavior at the baths; the institution of new norms of propriety may have resulted as much from women's increased presence as from a desire for social control on the part of the bourgeoisie in general. Nevertheless, segmentation by social class was clearly instituted. The poor and working poor were excluded from many of the baths, and an array of new hospitals for the poor requiring hydrotherapy segregated them from the wealthy bathers (Mackaman, 1998).

In the first half of the eighteenth century, doctors largely controlled access to the baths. In France a patient needed a medical certificate issued by a doctor to enter the waters. Doctors also quickly developed a complement of hydrotherapeutic techniques, including hot and cold pressurized showers, hot mud packs for the body, and individualized boxes for prescribed steam baths. During an average three-week course of treatment, only a minor portion of a patient's time was spent in the bathing pools. Even when patients were in the baths, the length of daily treatments was closely controlled by the spa's staff (Mackaman, 1998).

Social stratification was a defining characteristic of spa towns. Locals worked in the baths, hotels, and the newly organized casinos. In towns such as Vichy and Aix-les-Bains (in the Savoy), service to wealthy travelers was the primary employment for local residents. Those travelers registered their names, addresses, professions, and the number of accompanying servants—all markers of social station in the nineteenth century—before going to the baths for their cures; meanwhile locals lost their earlier, nonmedical access to the baths. Spa employees and larger municipal police forces kept the homeless and begging poor out of the casinos and off the important promenades, where their presence was assumed to damage the appeal of the spa town (Towner, 1996).

After 1750, first in Britain and then on the Continent, the aristocracy and increasingly the bourgeoisie began to flock to the seaside also, spurring the development of resorts. In many parts of Europe, though sources are comparatively scarce, evidence indicates that people swam or played in the waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Fishermen and local peasants of both sexes apparently took to the water, often without the benefit of clothing. As bourgeois interest in the seaside grew, so too did municipal regulations governing use of the beaches. By the early nineteenth century nude bathing, apparently practiced more by men than women, was banned on most beaches, which also were usually segregated by sex (Corbin, 1994). Although access to the sea remained open to people of all social classes, the primary beach-fronts connected to resort towns were largely reserved for wealthy travelers, whose expenditures supported local economies.

Although romantic interest in the sea as untamed nature was not unlike the "discovery" of the Alps, the motivation for travel to the seaside, as in the case of spas, was also medical. For skin and pulmonary ailments, especially tuberculosis, doctors often advised an extended stay on the coast. By the early nineteenth century doctors also began to regulate immersion in seawater, offering careful instructions as to the preparation, duration, and necessary movements during daily bathing sessions.

Doctors and bathers made an important distinction between men and women. While women in particular were prescribed strict guidelines, carried out by attendants at the individual bathing boxes who ostensibly preserved female modesty, doctors exercised comparatively little control over men, who customarily treated jumping into the waves as a sort of male rite of passage, a proof of virility. The medical control at the seaside was thus inseparable from a broader social control of women's movements and their bodies in the nineteenth century (Corbin, 1994).


Although the network of European roads and coach services improved steadily, facilitating tourism among wealthy Europeans in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, railroads allowed faster, considerably cheaper transportation and dramatically increased the number of people who could afford to travel. By the middle of the nineteenth century, middle-class professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, and moderately successful businesspeople could take or send their families on vacation. The middle class could thus enjoy a holiday of travel and use it for social distinction, much as the wealthy bourgeoisie had before the advent of the railroad. Interestingly the greater accessibility made possible by the railroad did not erase social distinctions but rather altered their contours. Just as the railroad had first-class, second-class, third-class, and occasionally fourth-class carriage, tourist destinations changed to accommodate greater social diversity and to satisfy the desire of those who could afford better for social differentiation.

The railroad thus had an ironic effect on established tourist destinations. For example, on the southern coast of England, Brighton had been a favored destination of the English nobility and royalty in the eighteenth century. However, when the railroad connected Brighton to nearby London, the middle and lower middle classes of the city began to make day trips to the seaside town. The royal family and the social elite relocated their social season to the north, placing themselves outside the logistical and financial reach of these new tourists. In France, where the warm and more desirable seasides were in the south, the railroad made it easy for the wealthy of Paris and of Europe to make a journey that was impractical for those of limited means. Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III of France, made Biarritz on the southwestern French coast a sought-after resort town once the railroad line was established. On the Riviera the French annexation of Nice in 1860 facilitated the development of a French railway line from Paris. Nice expanded rapidly, and in wintertime, the social season on the Riviera, its population exploded as the international social elite swarmed in. The British expatriot community installed a promenade des Anglais (English boardwalk), and the Russian nobles in nearby Villefranche successfully argued for improvements in the municipal infrastructure for their use (Haug, 1982). Wealthy Americans also went to Europe in droves.

The convenience and speed of the railroad made it possible for tourists to visit an array of provincial destinations in addition to the northern capital cities and important Italian cities of the Grand Tour and the established spas and seaside resorts. More tourists with more destinations sought information about where to go, what to see, and how to get there most easily. Guidebooks became increasingly widespread in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. But whereas early guidebooks were very personal accounts, guidebooks in the age of the railroad emphasized objectivity, eventually eliminating authors' subjective comments. Because tourists on land were by mid-century traveling almost exclusively by railroad, guidebooks adopted railway itineraries as their organizational framework. In Britain, John Murray published little red guides to sights and hotels of Europe in a format quickly adopted by Karl Baedeker in Germany (Buzard, 1993). Publishing guides in several European languages covering western, northern, and southern Europe by 1914, Baedeker and his successors built a veritable empire of guidebooks that told tourists where to go and what to see (Koshar, 1998; Hinrichsen, 1988). In France, Adolphe Joanne launched a similar series, published by Hachette, that had a monopolistic control of bookstores in French rail stations. The importance of railway lines in the Guides-Joanne was obvious; several guidebooks traced a single line across France, with the first portion covering the journey outward from Paris and the second the trip back to the French capital (Nordman, 1997).

The Murray, Baedeker, and Joanne guidebooks, like their eventual competitors, offered practical information about the quality and prices of hotels, admission prices to museums, train schedules, details about the sights a dutiful tourist should not miss, and even advice about appropriate behavior. In short, the guidebooks attempted to instruct the novice tourist in how to travel. By providing abundant information updated in successive editions, guidebooks took some of the uncertainty out of travel. But arrangements remained entirely in the hands of individual tourists, who needed to negotiate not only with hotels but also with the multitude of train companies within a given country.

For the lower middle class and skilled workers with limited means, less time, and little familiarity with the profusion of train schedules and fares, Thomas Cook offered both greater certainty and moderate prices. A British cabinetmaker and minister, Cook organized his first tour by railroad for workingmen and workingwomen attending a temperance meeting in 1841. In 1851 he negotiated prices with the railroads and lined up accommodations for some 165,000 British men and women who traveled to the see the Great Exhibition in London, accounting for some 3 percent of the visitors (Withey, 1997). By the 1860s, as railroad fares declined within Britain, often obviating the need for his services, Cook focused on tours of the Continent, beginning with Paris (1861), Switzerland (1863), Italy (1864), and Spain (1872) (Towner, 1996; Withey, 1997). Even more visitors used Cook's coupon books for railway travel and hotels, accepting his itinerary but seeing the sights on their own. Travelers' checks, a further reduction of the risks of travel, eventually evolved out of this practice.

In several respects Cook and his competitors opened up touring to social groups that had not traveled in the past. Without abandoning his initial base—usually skilled artisans or lower-middle-class tradespeople on day trips—as the destination increasingly became the Continent, Cook also served a broad spectrum of the middle class, including doctors, lawyers, salaried employees, teachers, and ministers. The last two groups, who had time but limited incomes, were a primary constituency. Although Cook had less luck organizing tours of Britons to the United States, he successfully recruited wealthier Americans seeking the cultural cachet and the social capital that a tour conferred (Levenstein, 1998).

Cook's tour came to embody the increased access to travel in nineteenth-century Europe. As a result those travelers who could afford longer, slower, and more costly trips ridiculed Cook's month-long tours to Europe as offering no time for a real appreciation of the monuments, museums, and landscapes seen in a blur. The perceptions of social distinction shifted. For those of modest means, touring offered status, but for the wealthy, the fact of touring the Continent became less important than in what manner and in whose company (Withey, 1997; Levenstein, 1998).

The most obvious social change among travelers in the nineteenth century was the increased presence of women. Although a few women had done the Grand Tour or taken the waters in the eighteenth century, in the course of the nineteenth century tourism by women unaccompanied by men became standard. The railroads and guidebooks (which were often, as in the case of the Baedeker, downright sexist, even by nineteenth-century standards) facilitated travel and hence travel by women not in the company of men. In Cook's tours both single women and women traveling in groups were more heavily represented than men (Withey, 1997). One reason for this was clearly ease of transport, but another was the broader cultural changes in nineteenth-century Europe. Whereas men had been the primary collectors of art early in the century, women increasingly became connoisseurs of art, music, and culture generally, though the remunerated professions of artist, curator, or academic remained the preserve of men. Bourgeois women's predominance in the church was also a factor. In largely Protestant Britain women took an important role in the temperance movement, sometimes necessitating travel by train, and in Catholic areas women were proportionately better represented in the organized group tours to pilgrimage sites, such as the spring at Lourdes in the Pyrenees Mountains.

By the end of the nineteenth century, growing nationalist and imperialist sentiment, laced with social Darwinism, was also reflected in well-off Europeans' travel. Guidebooks could be quite nationalistic. In the 1860s the Baedeker guides in the German language fervently claimed that the French-held Alsace-Lorraine should in fact be part of united Germany. British guides frequently deplored the supposedly inadequate hygiene on the Continent, especially the absence of toilets flushed with water. In countries with expanding empires, most notably Britain and France, trips to the colonies gained in popularity among the wealthy. Although the numbers remained small, Britons and to a lesser extent other Europeans, very often under the auspices of a Cook's tour down the Nile, traveled to Egypt in search of cultural exoticism. By the 1880s they were reassured by the British protectorate. Britons also went to Palestine to visit the Holy Land. The colonies of Algeria and Morocco were sometimes destinations for the French. While traveling outside Europe, Europeans could congratulate themselves on their own national superiority in having a grander empire than other Europeans and their racial superiority, presumably manifest in the vast material divide between themselves and indigenous peoples.


While the overwhelming majority of travelers in the early twentieth century continued to use the railroad, technological innovations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries renewed the emphasis on traveling by road as well. In the 1890s the "safety" bicycle with two wheels of the same size became the sporting rage for those rich enough to buy one. In an era when male doctors and commentators attacked the bicycle as a potential agent of the moral corruption and of the loss of virginity among women, with few exceptions these early cyclists were above all wealthy, usually bourgeois men.

In the first decade of the century, the automobile began to rival the bicycle as a sport vehicle, and it quickly became a means of tourist transportation for aristocrats and bourgeois Europeans. The automobile's price and extremely high maintenance costs made it a socially exclusive mode of transportation. (In France in 1901 a single automobile tire, with a projected life of no more than a thousand miles, cost ninety-nine francs. At that time a provincial male laborer earned approximately three francs daily.) An automobile allowed wealthy men, accompanied by women and usually a mechanic-driver, to make long trips, veritable adventures given the unreliability of automobiles as compared to trains.

Both bicycle and especially automobile tourism necessitated an infrastructure eventually provided by local and national authorities. Well-maintained, eventually paved roads with road signs became the subject of important lobbying efforts by tourists enamored of the new forms of transport. An array of nonprofit organizations emerged across Europe to advocate the interests of cyclists and then motorists. Inspired by the British Cyclist Touring Club, "touring clubs" funded by members' contributions and often public subsidies worked with local and national governments to provide an infrastructure for all forms of tourism. Cycling received pride of place in the 1890s, when touring clubs frequently organized one-way cycling excursions on Sunday mornings capped off with a large noon dinner; wives and less athletic members joined the group for the meal, and all returned home by train. After 1900 touring clubs, working alongside the more socially exclusive automobile clubs, also argued for roadway improvements necessary for automobiles.

In several countries the touring clubs, while overwhelmingly bourgeois, were among the largest of associations. The Touring Club de France, founded in 1890, had nearly 100,000 members in 1914 and 400,000 in 1939 (Rauch, 1996). The Touring Club Ciclistico Italiano, founded in 1894, dropped "cycling" from its name in 1900 and grew to 450,000 members in the interwar years (Bosworth, 1997). In various countries the groups fervently embraced a positive notion of progress arguing for greater expenditure of state monies to benefit their bourgeois members' interests in travel by road; they often used strong nationalist language that became downright virulent during World War I.

Automobile and tire companies also promoted tourism by car. The example of the Michelin Tire Company in France and across Europe is instructive. Beginning in 1900 Michelin produced guidebooks offering advice about tires and a list of mechanics, Michelin dealers, and hotels, first for France but by 1914 for central and western Europe generally. In 1908 Michelin established its own tourist office to provide precise itineraries of the most passable and scenic roads. In 1910 the company began to offer a series of maps of the road network designed for the needs of motorists and provided French towns with free signs so that tourists could figure out which town they were entering. Michelin also joined forces with the Touring Club de France to pressure the French government to number all French roads and place signs along them directing motorists. By the interwar years Michelin produced an array of guidebooks to French regions that assumed readers were traveling by car. Baedeker and other guides altered their own guides to make them useful to motorists as well as to train travelers. While Michelin and other companies catered solely to the bourgeoisie before World War II, after the war their efforts on behalf of the wealthy created an infrastructure for automobile tourism open to the European masses.


Before the twentieth century workers and peasants, the overwhelming majority of Europeans, traveled very little for pleasure as opposed to work, migration, or army service. Employers, particularly in Britain, began to give lower-level white-collar workers paid vacations in the middle and late nineteenth century. However, the first documented touring by blue-collar workers dates from the 1880s, when textile workers from Lancashire and Yorkshire took the train for day trips to the western coast of England. Blackpool became a favored beach destination as the numbers of both day-trippers and longer-term travelers grew; in 1937 some 7 million tourists visited the town (Cross, 1993).


Just as tourism provides an alternative angle for considering social distinctions in modern Europe, so too it reveals the political context in which it took place. The example of World War I is instructive. As early as 1916, while witnessing the wholesale destruction of the battlefields of northeastern France, advocates for tourism envisaged postwar "pilgrimages" to the battlefields that would redress France's balance of payments with the United States. In cooperation with the Touring Club de France, the Michelin Company in the spring of 1917 introduced the first battlefield guidebook, which was followed by twenty-eight additional volumes by 1921. Michelin became the most important interwar producer of such guides, which had a combined circulation of more than 1.5 million copies.

The guidebooks, designed for French people wealthy enough to have a car in the early 1920s, claimed to tell the "whole history" of the war. Interestingly, they told only the history of the western front and offered no analysis of the network of alliances that erupted in war in 1914. That is, Germany was the clear aggressor; the French government or army had no responsibility in causing the war. Moreover, the guidebooks featured leading French generals with abundant photographs and words of praise, even for those, such as Robert-Georges Nivelle, who were not known for their strengths in the field. Ordinary French foot soldiers received credit for following orders; the mutinies of 1917 were conveniently glossed over. Overall, the guidebooks made it clear that World War I was an inevitable, defensive war won by larger-than-life generals (of the social and political elite) who commanded working-class and peasant soldiers with alacrity. The message for the postwar era was clear: not only were socialist and communist interpretations of the war discredited, but the "natural" leaders in France also survived the war with their credibility intact. The French bourgeoisie, in the form of generals and politicians of centrist and right-wing parties, knew how best to govern France. They could do it successfully if the civilian masses managed to follow orders much as the soldiers had.

Across Europe the interwar years saw a significant expansion of working-class tourism, even, in the eyes of some historians, the emergence of mass tourism. In Weimar Germany, paid vacations of up to two weeks slowly expanded to include some industrial workers, and at least some of those workers traveled. The German Social Democratic Party sponsored a series of subsidized tours designed as political and cultural education, and meant to be socialist alternatives to the commercial trips offered by and for the capitalist bourgeoisie. Yet clearly most German workers did not travel as tourists in the 1920s. Similarly "proletarian tourism," organized and subsidized by the Communist Party, emerged in the newly formed Soviet Union. In France the Popular Front government of 1936, a coalition of socialist, communist, and radical parties, implemented paid two-week holidays for all French workers. Before the outbreak of war in 1939 most French workers did not go on vacation, apparently for lack of money, but the legislation created a fundamental social entitlement. As in most of postwar Europe but in direct contrast with the United States, vacation allowing time for travel became a right of French citizens guaranteed by the state rather than a revocable privilege granted by employers. In 1937 the Communist trade union, the CGT, founded a tourism bureau to facilitate workers' travel (Furlough, 1998).

Fascist states, sensing the popularity of tourism for the masses, claimed to sponsor working-class tourism; but historical evidence indicates that, at least on longer tours, the middle classes were better represented numerically. According to Fascist ideologues in Italy, properly packaged tourism for the people would show Italian masses the geographical, cultural, and historical wonders of their country. But Italian workers could afford the longer-distance "popular trains" for tours, such as to Rome, only when they received subsidies from employers. Local day trips, some under the auspices of the national government, became much more frequent in the 1920s and 1930s among both industrial workers and peasants (de Grazia, 1981). In Germany, Hitler's vast Kraft durch Freude (strength through joy) program organized an array of tourist options, including extended train trips and cruises. Much as Nazi propaganda trumpeted workers' participation, actual travelers on the train trips were most often lower-level salaried employees from the private sector. On cruises just over 20 percent of those traveling were workers, despite their much larger proportion of society at large (Keitz, 1997). Kraft durch Freude vacations were fundamentally tied to the regime's racial ideology. Trips within Germany were supposed to allow German workers to appreciate the superiority of their racial heritage. Cruises with calls in Scandinavia reminded German tourists of their Aryan origins; posters advertising such tours featured young, blond-haired people wondering at fjords and other natural wonders of the north (Baranowski and Furlough, forthcoming).

After World War II and the penury of the early postwar years, tourism grew to include the European masses. Increased standards of living and paid vacations financed travel across the Continent. In the Soviet Union (for which scholarship on travel and tourism is scant), trips, usually by train, to the resorts of the Black Sea became more frequent. In Western Europe the growth of incomes combined with lower costs of production led to the development of a mass market in automobiles. The German Volkswagen, the French Citroën 2CV, and the Italian Fiat were among the best-known small cars within the financial reach of the vast majority of workers and farmers after the war. As had been the case for wealthy Europeans earlier in the century, the expansion of automobile ownership was strongly linked with tourism. Cars allowed more tourists of modest means to go farther, search for inexpensive accommodations, bring along their own camping gear, and access affordable transportation once they reached the desired destination. In 1964, 65 percent of French tourists took a car on vacation, only 25 percent took the train, and 10 percent took an airplane, bus, or other alternative. Within France, however, those most likely to go on vacation were still overwhelmingly urban; in 1964, 73 percent of Parisians left the city on vacation, whereas only 16 percent of the rural population took traveling vacations. Workers from greater Paris may not have had the means of the bourgeoisie, but they took vacations that rural folk could not or would not undertake (Furlough, 1998).

The European masses very often traveled to the same destinations as did the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie. Tour buses hauled people across European borders to visit the cities and other long-standing tourist sights, and the spas of Europe witnessed a huge influx of new users. In Germany, Bad Reichenhall received 11,320 visitors in 1900, 26,880 in 1939, and 75,287 in 1975. The beaches in resort towns, once reserved primarily for the elite, exploded with new bathers. As in the 1920s, when wealthy Americans flocked to the Riviera during the summer to sun themselves, postwar tourists often spent their summer vacations at the beach. Postwar fascination with youth and the body, created or at least fed by the consumer culture developing at the same time, led to significant changes in social comportment at the beach. The nineteenth-century distinction of social class between the clothed and the unclothed quickly transformed into a divide between the young and the old. While social distinctions by no means disappeared, a new cult of the body changed sartorial norms (at least among those other than Scandinavians and northern Germans, for whom nudity had never become taboo in the first place). Men and boys increasingly wore abbreviated, tight-fitting swim trunks, while women often wore bikinis. Topless and nude beaches proliferated. Interestingly the entrance of the masses at the beach as users rather than servants coincided with the erosion of nineteenth-century bourgeois notions of beachfront propriety.

The declining cost of air travel made Europe a popular destination for middle-class Americans and made the world more accessible to middle-class Europeans. For Americans after World War II, as for nineteenth-century Americans on the Grand Tour, a trip to Europe—whatever one actually did there—offered a certain cachet useful at home. Western Europeans traveled less frequently to North America, and a vacation in the United States offered a rather different form of social distinction at home. Although in the late 1950s and 1960s European countries lost many of the colonies that had been elite tourist destinations in the heyday of the empires, resorts in former colonies offered a sort of neocolonialism, in which Europeans could be pampered by non-Europeans while enjoying exotic sights and sounds. The French firm Club Méditerranée was an early sponsor of such non-Western tourism in its creation of exotic villages in Polynesia and other warm locales. In a sign of the times, Club Med purported to erase social distinctions among participants by mandating the use of first names and the informal second-person tu rather than the formal vous, as well as by discouraging mention of participants' professions or social standings in "civilization." Paradoxically, the new equal Europeans, almost always white, were served in the villages by local people of color who desperately needed work because of their countries' impoverished economies (Furlough, 1993).


Before the 1790s, when the term "tourist," derived from the French term tour (trip), first emerged in the English language, "traveler" was the primary designation for one engaged in leisure travel. In the course of the nineteenth century, most European languages acquired a term equivalent to the English "tourist," and tourists and social observers since then have often distinguished between "travelers" and "tourists." Late-nineteenth-century "travelers" condemned Cook's "tourists" as superficial. "Travelers" supposedly appreciated what they saw and experienced, whereas "tourists" completed a list of things that needed to be seen. Until the late twentieth century, historians and other writers often accepted the distinction at face value. Daniel Boorstin, Paul Fussell, and André Siegfried, though by no means isolated examples, have been most articulate in stressing the difference between the old bourgeois, aristocratic, educated travelers and the twentieth-century hordes who supposedly understood little besides how to have a good time.

By using the terms interchangeably, this essay has implicitly argued that no objective difference exists between "travelers" and "tourists." Clearly the wealthy young British men on the Grand Tour of Europe were as interested in pleasure as in art and ideas. The historian Harvey Levenstein showed that many middle-class travelers in the nineteenth century, even Cook's tourists, were far more interested in European art and architecture—which also offered them the possibility of a sort of cultural capital upon returning home—than were the fabulously wealthy who spent much of their time simply enjoying themselves in the company of their compatriots. In short, the distinction between travelers and tourists, like the distinctions that post–World War II tourists often made between themselves and other, presumably less-knowledgeable and culturally sensitive tourists, are not "real," measurable differences. That does not mean, of course, that they were any less important to contemporaries.

From the early modern era on, social distinctions made between those who could and those who could not afford to take the tour, take the waters in a spa, or go to the beach mirrored the social segmentation of European society as a whole. The prescribed roles for women and men further reflected widespread—and from a later perspective erroneous—assumptions about the "natural" differences between the sexes. Consequently the history of tourism, like other aspects of life that may at first appear somewhat superficial, provides an opportunity to consider social history more generally. Moreover, as social history has intertwined with cultural history, historians have maintained that the "real" social distinctions within Europe resulted in large part from their being seen as real by contemporaries. Tourism, one of many means by which people drew distinctions between themselves and others, provides a glimpse at how the hierarchies that long characterized European society evolved over time.

See alsoExplorers, Missionaries, Traders (volume 1);Migration (volume 2); and other articles in this section.


Baranowski, Shelley O., and Ellen Furlough, eds. Being Elsewhere: Tourism, Consumer Culture, and Identity in Modern Europe and North America. Ann Arbor, Mich., forthcoming.

Bernard, Paul P. Rush to the Alps: The Evolution of Vacationing in Switzerland. Boulder, Colo., 1978.

Bertho Lavenir, Catherine. "Normes de comportement et contrôle de l'espace: Le Touring Club de Belgique avant 1914." Mouvement Social 178 (1997): 69–87.

Bertho Lavenir, Catherine. La roue et le stylo: Comment nous sommes devenus touristes. Paris, 1999.

Boorstin, Daniel J. The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. New York, 1987.

Bosworth, R. J. B. "The Touring Club Italiano and the Nationalization of the Italian Bourgeoisie." European History Quarterly 27, no. 3 ( July 1997): 371–410.

Buzard, James. The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature, and the Ways toCulture, 1800–1918. New York, 1993.

Corbin, Alain. L'avènement des loisirs, 1850–1960. Paris, 1995.

Corbin, Alain. The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World,1750–1840. Translated by Jocelyn Phelps. Berkeley, Calif., 1994.

Cross, Gary. Time and Money: The Making of Consumer Culture. London and New York, 1993.

De Grazia, Victoria. The Culture of Consent: Mass Organization of Leisure in FascistItaly. Cambridge, U.K., 1981.

Eisner, Robert. Travelers to an Antique Land: The History and Literature of Travel toGreece. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1991.

Furlough, Ellen. "Making Mass Vacations: Tourism and Consumer Culture in France, 1930s to 1970s." Comparative Studies in Society and History 40 (1998): 247–286.

Furlough, Ellen. "Packaging Pleasures: Club Méditerranée and French Consumer Culture, 1950–1968." French Historical Studies 18, no. 1 (spring 1993): 65–81.

Fussell, Paul. Abroad: British Literary Traveling between the Wars. New York, 1980.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. The Flight to Italy: Diary and Selected Letters. Edited and translated by T. J. Reed. New York, 1999.

Grewal, Inderpal. Home and Harem: Nation, Gender, Empire, and Cultures of Travel. Durham, N.C., 1996.

Harp, Stephen L. Marketing Michelin: Advertising and National Culture inTwentieth-Century France. Baltimore, forthcoming.

Harris, Ruth. Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age. New York, 1999.

Haug, C. James. Leisure and Urbanism in Nineteenth-Century Nice. Lawrence, Kans., 1982.

Hinrichsen, Alex W. Baedeker-Katalog: Verzeichnis aller Baedeker-Reiseführer von1832–1987. Holzminden, Germany, 1988.

Keitz, Christine. Reisen als Leitbild: Die Entstehung des modernen Massentourismus in Deutschland. Munich, 1997.

Koshar, Rudy. " 'What Ought to Be Seen': Tourists' Guidebooks and National Identities in Modern Germany and Europe." Journal of Contemporary History 33, no. 3 (1998): 323–340.

Leed, Eric J. The Mind of the Traveler: From Gilgamesh to Global Tourism. New York, 1991.

Levenstein, Harvey. Seductive Journey: American Tourists in France from Jefferson to the Jazz Age. Chicago, 1998.

Lloyd, David W. Battlefield Tourism: Pilgrimage and Commemoration of the Great War in Britain, Australia, and Canada, 1919–1939. New York, 1998.

Löfgren, Orvar. On Holiday: A History of Vacationing. Berkeley, Calif., 1999.

MacCannell, Dean. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. New York, 1976.

Mackaman, Douglas Peter. Leisure Settings: Bourgeois Culture, Medicine, and the Spa in Modern France. Chicago, 1998.

Nordman, Daniel. "Les Guides-Joanne." In Lieux de mémoire. Edited by Pierre Nora. Vol. 2. Paris, 1997. Pages 529–567.

Pemble, John. The Mediterranean Passion: Victorians and Edwardians in the South. Oxford, 1987.

Rauch, André. Vacances en France: De 1830 à nos jours. Paris, 1996.

Rauch, André. Vacances et pratiques corporelles: La naissances des morales du dépaysement. Paris, 1988.

Siegfried, André. Aspects du XXe siècle. Paris, 1955.

Swinglehurst, Edmund. Cook's Tours: The Story of Popular Travel. Poole, U.K., 1982.

Tissot, Laurent. "How Did the British Conquer Switzerland? Guidebooks, Railways, Travel Agencies, 1850–1914." Journal of the History of Transport 8, no. 1 (March 1995): 21–54.

Towner, John. An Historical Geography of Recreation and Tourism in the WesternWorld, 1540–1940. Chichester, U.K., and New York, 1996.

Urry, John. The Tourist Gaze. London, 1990.

Walton, John K. The English Seaside Resort: A Social History, 1750–1914. Leicester, U.K., and New York, 1983.

Walton, John K. "Taking the History of Tourism Seriously." European History Quarterly 27, no. 4 (1997): 563–571.

Withey, Lynne. Grand Tours and Cook's Tours: A History of Leisure Travel, 1750 to1915. New York, 1997.

Young, Patrick. "The Consumer as National Subject: Bourgeois Tourism in the French Third Republic, 1890–1914." Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1999.