The Lure of the Beach: A Global History (Paperback)

The Lure of the Beach: A Global History By Robert C. Ritchie Cover Image
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A human and global take on a beloved vacation spot.

The crash of surf, smell of salted air, wet whorls of sand underfoot. These are the sensations of the beach, that environment that has drawn humans to its life-sustaining shores for millennia. And while the gull’s cry and the cove’s splendor have remained constant throughout time, our relationship with the beach has been as fluid as the runnels left behind by the tide’s turning.

The Lure of the Beach is a chronicle of humanity's history with the coast, taking us from the seaside pleasure palaces of Roman elites and the aquatic rituals of medieval pilgrims, to the venues of modern resort towns and beyond. Robert C. Ritchie traces the contours of the material and social economies of the beach throughout time, covering changes in the social status of beach goers, the technology of transport, and the development of fashion (from nudity to Victorianism and back again), as well as the geographic spread of modern beach-going from England to France, across the Mediterranean, and from nineteenth-century America to the world. And as climate change and rising sea levels erode the familiar faces of our coasts, we are poised for a contemporary reckoning with our relationship—and responsibilities—to our beaches and their ecosystems. The Lure of the Beach demonstrates that whether as a commodified pastoral destination, a site of ecological resplendency, or a flashpoint between private ownership and public access, the history of the beach is a human one that deserves to be told now more than ever before.

About the Author

Robert C. Ritchie is Senior Research Associate at the Huntington Library and author of Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates.

Praise For…

"Ritchie's book is both engagingly written and thoroughly scholarly."
— Geography Realm

"The Lure of the Beach is a thoroughly researched, interesting social history. . . .a landmark text."
— Technology & Culture

"In Ritchie’s book, we observe how the beach contributed to the making of class, gender, sexuality, race, and ideas about the body."
— Society for US Intellectual History
Product Details
ISBN: 9780520395572
ISBN-10: 0520395573
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: April 25th, 2023
Pages: 344
Language: English