- "If bread is the first necessity of life, recreation is a close second."
– Edward Bellamy
- "People who cannot find time for recreation are sooner or later to find time for illness."
– John Wanamaker
There has been leisure since time immemorial, but early civilizations are too busy surviving to think of some more sophisticated forms of recreation. Thus, it was usually limited to spending some free time around the fire with other people, telling tales and singing.
It is only in the Classical Era when civilizations start inventing more elaborate forms of diversion. A whole new District is created to house them - the Entertainment Complex, and in its first building, the Arena, the masses witness great shows and entertain themselves. This being the ancient world, the shows were many times quite bloody, such as the famous gladiator battles in Rome.
Recreation is an essential element in the human condition; indeed, leisure is considered a necessity under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948 AD. Recreational “pursuits” may be communal or solitary, active or passive, structured or freeform, healthy or harmful, private or public.
Each early civilization had its own forms of recreation. Recreation – in the form of games and sports – were often the vestiges of warfare, hunting, religious practices or other useless activities. Plato among others held that recreation was crucial for both the individual as well as the society, in that one could learn, explore and experience things in a “safe” environment. But in the Middle Ages, for many, recreation became a luxury; everyone worked hard … and the Church condemned most forms of leisure (not that folk didn’t engage in all these despite this). The Renaissance wasn’t much better, although the wealthy did find time to play games and read, and “artistic hobbies” were taken up by various feckless folk.
It was the Industrial Revolution that really brought leisure, games and recreation into the mainstream again. The annual hours committed to “work” declined in the Industrial West from 1840 to the present from the range of 3000 to 1800 hours. Workers and their unions demanded – and got – ever shorter work weeks, paid vacations, weekends off, and all sorts of other benefits … just so they could spend their extra earnings and spare time on recreation and games.