Nights Out

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Life in Cosmopolitan London

Judith R. Walkowitz

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London’s Soho district underwent a spectacular transformation between the late Victorian era and the end of the Second World War: its old buildings and dark streets infamous for sex, crime, political disloyalty, and ethnic diversity became a center of culinary and cultural tourism servicing patrons of nearby shops and theaters. Indulgences for the privileged and the upwardly mobile edged a dangerous, transgressive space imagined to be "outside" the nation.

Treating Soho as exceptional, but also representative of London's urban transformation, Judith Walkowitz shows how the area's foreignness and porousness were key to the explosion of culture and development of modernity in the first half of the twentieth century. She draws on a vast and unusual range of sources to stitch together a rich patchwork quilt of vivid stories and unforgettable characters, revealing how Soho became a showcase for a new cosmopolitan identity.

Judith Walkowitz is professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and the author of City of Dreadful Delight. She lives in New York.

"A scrupulous and intelligent survey of a mythologised area where those qualities are rarely found. A real contribution to the history of place."—Iain Sinclair

"Perceptive and detailed."—Euan Ferguson, Time Out

"As thought-provoking in its conclusions as it is colourful in its detail."—Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

"An entertaining study of early 20th century Soho. . . Walkowitz’s forte is the case study and the Soho recreation that reflects some wider trend. She is particularly astute on the importance of dancing both as a social activity and a source of female self-definition."—DJ Taylor, The Independent

"In Nights Out, she has produced an engrossing exploration of how a district that was not quite anywhere became a synonym for the multicultural city that is London today."—Judith Flanders, The Sunday Telegraph ‘Seven’

"This is an engaging and authoritative contribution to the history of the place we Londoners still cleave to as the cool heart of our capital."—Melanie McGrath, Evening Standard

“Walkowitz chronicles convincingly, disinterring obscure newspaper stories, skilfully using police reports, and amassing excellent material…Nights Out is the result of skilful, persevering research and conscientious thought: it marshals much recondite material to make a rewarding book. Walkowitz writes well…[a] lively, affable, thought- provoking book.”—Richard Davenport-Hines, Times Literary Supplement

“A spirited story.”—Katharine Whittemore, The Boston Globe

"Nights Out remains an invaluable study on the cultural history of Soho and clearly defines the cultural transition undergone by the district during the first half of the twentieth century. The role of its catering and entertaining establishments in the process of cosmopolitanization of the district is highlighted as it has never been done before."—Marion Pluskota, Journal of Urban History
“One of the many virtues of this book . . . is [Walkowitz’s] insistence that historical study of Britain’s domestic contexts as much as its imperial ones yields valuable insight into the complex processes creating and shaping modernity. . . . Compelling reading. . . . [The book] tells us much about the historical development of Soho.”—Laura E. Nym Mayhall, American Historical Review (featured review)

“[Walkowitz] draws from a prodigious amount of research and employs various methodologies that permit her to address Soho’s uniqueness. This study is thick description at its best, a careful unpacking of the minutiae of quotidian life.”—Chris Waters, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“An ambitious and highly readable account, which bridges and expands numerous historiographies, from the burgeoning scholarship on commercial leisure, to histories of British multiculturalism, to ongoing debates about the British experience of the Second World War. . . . A fascinating glimpse into a specific urban space, advancing our understanding of how cosmopolitanism was understood and practiced, while also helping to articulate a range of exciting new questions for historians.”—Allison Abra, Canadian Journal of History

“Exemplary. . . . A new and invigorating history of this ‘potent incubator of metropolitan change’ and its multiple meanings for the metropolis in the first half of the twentieth century. . . . A tour de force of meticulous and industrious research that provides us with what will surely be the last word on many aspects of Soho life in the first half of the twentieth century. . . . Splendid.”—Jerry White, History Workshop Journal
“Possess[es] both analytical precision and compelling narrative force. . . . . As a contribution to the history of London in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, its importance is very considerable indeed, and, like all of Walkowitz’s work, it will undoubtedly prompt numerous discussions and emulative studies seeking to replicate its considerable achievements.”—Paul R. Deslandes, Journal of British Studies

“An impressive blend of cosmopolitanism studies, gender and queer theory, critical geography, media studies, oral history, and extensive archival work—all in productive dialogue with one another.”—Victorian Studies

“Walkowitz’s history of post-Victorian London has much to offer the scholar of Victorian studies, as well as those working in any myriad other fields she draws from and contributes to here.”—Victorian Studies
ISBN: 9780300151947
Publication Date: May 15, 2012
432 pages, 6 x 9
37 b/w integrated & 8 pp. col illus.