A Brief Intellectual and Semantic History of “Idleness”

  • Heidi LiedkeEmail author


This chapter provides a brief intellectual history of the many facets of the term and concept “idleness” and develops the continuities and differences between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with regard to the traveller persona. The chapter sketches how the status of idleness changed from antiquity to modernity, shows how it acquired a precarious status in Puritan discourse and sheds light on its relation to “leisure.” While at first glance, the term “leisure” was more unambiguously positively connoted in Victorian England, and “idleness” was negatively connoted, the terms were used interchangeably even within this one period. This sketch is then linked to two other central discourses of the time, namely travel and tourism and the respective personas associated with them. Taking into account both factual texts from Victorian periodicals and poems, Liedke shows that the terms “idleness” and “leisure” have been used in semantic proximity in different contexts which calls for a more detailed classification.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany
  2. 2.Queen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

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