10 A study of an aspect or theme in British history that
extends pupils' chronological knowledge beyond 1066
Changes in leisure and entertainment in the twentieth century
In 30 seconds…
One hundred years is of course a long time, and this has rarely been as evident was
it was over the last century! In 1900, humankind had not yet flown, yet by the end of
the century we could fly around the world for a holiday. Two world wars had
happened by the mid part of the century, and the constant march of technology was
gradually made more affordable to the masses so that by the end of the century,
people did not have to leave their homes in order to have almost anything they
What do I need to know?
How has it changed over time?
The way that people have pursued leisure and entertainment has changed over the
last century and there have been a number of contributing factors that have
influenced these changes. Fashion, technology, transport and taste have all affected
what we do, while longer life expectancy and medicine have given us more
opportunity to enjoy our free time. In 1900, the train was the fastest mode of
transport, whereas today we can jet around the world.
Early twentieth century
In the early 1900s, there were three main classes that made up British society: upper
class, middle class and lower class. People did not have a huge amount of leisure
time and worked long hours in the week, often around 59 hours. There were no paid
holidays, just bank holidays. Seaside resorts were still popular and trains were the
way to travel. The First World War raged from 1914 to 1918 and had a huge impact
on society, and it was not until the 1920s, nicknamed the Roaring Twenties, that
people started to enjoy themselves again. Live music, with bands playing jazz and
swing, were very popular, and the 1930s saw cinemas showing the stars of the day
in the Golden Age of Hollywood. At this time, around half of the houses in Britain had
a radio.
Mid-twentieth century
The Second World War, from 1939 to 1945, put many things on hold, just as the
earlier war had done. Televisions started to appear in the 1930s; programmes were
suspended during the war, but became more and more popular thereafter. Many
people watched the coronation of Elizabeth II on their own television or crowded
around a neighbour’s television set, and by the mid-sixties, around 90 per cent of
homes had a TV set. This meant that the cinema became less popular as television
took its place. Rock and roll music arrived in the 1950s, and the 1960s saw British
bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones conquer the world.
Late twentieth century
Improvements in the cost and speed of transport saw more people taking advantage
of the chance to visit destinations that would have been unheard of during an earlier
period. Cable and satellite television invaded homes, providing people with 24-hour
home entertainment. The internet and mobile phones further changed how people
spent their time, and one result of all this improved technology, combined with
abundance of fast food outlets, was a rise in obesity and general lack of fitness in
comparison to earlier generations.
Important dates
1924: The first television is invented.
1930: The first jet engine is invented.
1939: Workers are given one week paid holiday by law.
1940: Dic and Mac McDonald open their first restaurant.
1940: The first colour television is invented.
1942: The first digital computer is built.
1951: The first video tape recorder is invented.
1965: The compact disc is invented.
1972: The first video game, Pong, is invented.
1973: The first call on a mobile phone is made.
1989: The first-high definition television appears.
1990: The World Wide Web is created.
1995: DVDs are invented.
Interesting fact 1
The highest attendance at a sporting event in Britain was in 1937 at Hampden
Park, when Scotland played England at football. Official attendance was 149,415
but it may even have been higher! The biggest crowd in England was also a
football match; in 1923, 126,047 watched Bolton Wanderers play West Ham at
Interesting fact 2
The biggest crowd at a music concert in the UK was at the Isle of Wight festival in
1970. Bands such as the Who, Joni Mitchell and the Doors played, and it was one
of the last live appearances by Jimi Hendrix before he died, aged just 27.
Useful links
http://daubneyagency.co.uk/images/History.pdf Although it starts a little earlier
than the twentieth century, it offers useful information and images.
www.localhistories.org/games.html An overview of leisure and games, from the
Ancient Egyptians to the modern day.
Lesson 1 Changes in my lifetime
Getting started
Pupils make a list of what they did in their spare time last weekend.
Class activities
 Write the words leisure and entertainment on the board. Ask pupils what
these words mean and record their answers on the board. Read them
dictionary definitions of the words.
 Pupils feed back on what they did at the weekend, from the ‘Getting
started’ activity. Write the activities on the board.
 Find some pictures on the internet that show children’s activities from
years ago, for instance, hoop and stick, marbles, yo-yo, doll, hopscotch.
Either show them on the board or print them out to pass around so pupils
can look at and discuss them in small groups or pairs.
 Pupils make a list of similarities/differences between what they do and
what we used to do.
 Take feedback and discuss results.
 Ask pupils what important thing was used years ago that is used less and
less these days: gradually reveal the word imagination. Write it on the
board and ask pupils to find ways in which we use it today.
 Pupils complete a short written activity, beginning I last used my
imagination for a game when…
 Pupils invent their own new game using their imagination and one or two
objects, for instance, marbles or a tennis ball. Alternatively, they work in a
group with no objects, just themselves, for instance, a variation of Bulldogs
or Tig. Play the best examples with the whole class in the playground.
Plenary material
In pairs, pupils name one similarity and one difference between entertainment
today and 100 years ago.
Lesson 2 What is that gadget?
Getting started
In pairs, pupils discuss which gadget has most impressed them recently. Make a
list of them on the board: which is the most popular?
Class activities
 Explain that the pupils are going to looking at gadgets that amazed people
when they first came out. Ask if they can give any examples.
 Once they have had a few goes, show some pictures of gadgets over the
years, for instance: early television, VCR, Walkman, Space Invaders, iPod.
 Ask pupils to place the objects on a timeline.
 Pupils write which gadget they think would have amazed people the most
when it first came out and why.
 They compare answers and feedback to draw a graph of their results.
 Pupils write an advert about their choice, with slogans and pictures to
Plenary material
Think of one of the gadgets mentioned in the lesson and make five statements
about it that gradually reveal the identity (to increase the level of difficulty, reduce
to three statements). Pupils each have one guess as to what they think the object
is, and they each write their answer in the back of their book. If they get it after the
first clue, they get five points; then four points after the second clue, etc.
Lesson 3 How do we get there?
Getting started
Pupils write down the last place they went on holiday and how they got there.
Class activities
 Discuss the results of the ‘Getting started’ activity, and record answers.
Explain that the idea of having a holiday is a fairly recent idea; it was not
until the twentieth century that people started taking holidays.
 Look at the development of transport and how people would have got
around, from boat to train to car to plane. Plot these on a chronological
 Show the class a picture of different popular holiday destinations through
the twentieth century: for instance, a seaside resort in England, a camping
holiday, a caravan holiday, a ski resort, backpacking in Asia, an exotic
beach holiday.
 Ask pupils to describe each holiday destination and place them in
chronological order.
 Pupils describe one good thing/advantage and one bad thing/disadvantage
about each holiday.
Plenary material
Write the names of a variety of different holiday destinations, with a number next
to each. Then write the names of different modes of transport on the board, with a
letter next to each. Ask pupils to match the holiday up with the relevant mode of
Further activities for pupils
 Invent a gadget of the future. Create a PPT or poster detailing it.
 Research some old adverts that showcase new technology from years ago.
Write and record your own for a new gadget.
 Imagine that you lived at different times in the twentieth century. What would
you have done for leisure and entertainment?
 Compare the different types of holidays that people have taken in the last 100
 Investigate the rise of the television: how has it transformed lives? Is it for
better or worse?
 Class debate: have gadgets taken away our social skills?
 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – what will the next big social network site
 Explore entertainment enjoyed by the whole family: does it still happen or are
we more inclined to pursue our individual interests these days?
 Investigate the Roaring Twenties and do a short project on the attractions
during the decade.
Cross-curricular links
Art and design: Create a poster advertising a seaside resort in the early twentieth
English: Write a story about growing up at various times in the twentieth century:
1900; 1930; 1965; 1980; 1995. What differences would there be?
Computing: Create a PPT showing the changes in leisure and entertainment
throughout the twentieth century; or focus on one particular element or object.
Geography: Investigate some of the holiday destinations and seaside attractions
that were popular at the start of the twentieth century. How did people get there?
Science: Look at the development of a particular piece of technology. How might it
be still further improved in the future?
Drama: Pupils write a short script and act out a night in with their family that does not
include television or any gadgets. What would they do for entertainment?
1. Pupils recognise that leisure and entertainment has changed in the
twentieth century.
2. Pupils recognise that technology has improved over time.
3. Pupils can identify ways in which people were entertained in the past.
4. Pupils can identify different types of holiday destinations and transport
over time.
5. Pupils can compare and contrast leisure and entertainment on a timeline.

Online chapter 12_Changes in leisure and