Historian Eric G.E. Zuelow's new book explores a transnational approach to European tourism history by leading scholars

February 15, 2011

In his new book, Touring Beyond the Nation: A Transnational Approach to European Tourism History (Ashgate), Eric G.E. Zuelow, Ph.D., University of New England assistant professor of European history, draws together a collection of leading historians to explore the story of European tourism. 

Instead of studying discrete national histories, as is the norm, Zuelow and his collaborators take an explicitly transnational approach and examine how tourism is the product of very broad trends.

"Historians usually write about tourism from a national perspective," noted Zuelow.  "You read about French tourism, English tourism, German tourism, Mexican tourism, but more and more historians realize that these national stories actually happened as part of something much, much bigger." This volume tells the larger story.

Evolution of Tourism

Although modern tourism first evolved in Europe, changes were never confined to national borders. The Grand Tour, the birthplace of modern tourism, was consummately transnational in both its execution and its influence. Although seaside resorts originated in Britain, the aesthetic and scientific ideas that made beaches desirable emerged through conversation among Dutch painters, English travelers and both British and Continental scientists and philosophers.

When travel was finally available to the masses, Irish tourism advocates looked to England, Continental Europe and America for ideas. The Nazi leisure organization, Kraft durch Freude (KdF), or "Strength through Joy," was based on an earlier Italian model, the Dopolavoro. World's Fair promoters raided previous fairs in other countries for ideas. European-wide demand and taste helped shape nudist practice in France and beyond. At every turn, practices and products developed because tourism lent itself to transnational discourse.

The Idea for the Book

Zuelow started to develop the idea for this book as he wrote his first monograph, Making Ireland Irish. At every turn, Irish tourism took shape in dialogue with people and ideas from Germany, France, Spain, the United States, and beyond. 

When Zuelow talked with colleagues who study Britain and continental Europe, the story seemed to be much the same.  He finally suggested that the group do a book making the case for an explicitly transnational paradigm of tourism history.

"I think that most scholars recognize that tourism is transnational, almost by definition," commented Zuelow.  "Tourists cross borders, that's what they do.  You cannot separate the transnational experience that tourists have from the national story of tourism development."

He added that the contributors often use very different methodological and stylistic approaches to their subjects, but the basic argument is always the same: tourism is the product of truly global ideas and discourses.

Touring Beyond the Nation includes a who's who of tourism historians.  John K. Walton, Ikerbasque, Basque Foundation for Science; Laurent Tissot, Universite de Neuchatel, Switzerland; Stephen L. Harp, University of Akron; and Angela Schwarz, University of Siegen, Germany, each played an important role in making tourism an important topic of historical scholarship and continue to publish pivotal work on the subject. 

Alexander Vari, Marywood University; Michelle Standley, New York University; Patrick Young, University of Massachusetts - Lowell;  Christian Noack, National University of Ireland;  Kristin Semmens, University of Victoria, Canada; and Zuelow himself are all members of the new generation of tourism historians who are opening up new areas of study and helping to define the future course of the field.

Reaction

The book is already being praised.  Shelley Baranowski, author of Strength Through Joy, a history of the Nazis' leisure organization, Kraft durch Freude, writes: "The essays in this volume are well-written, well-structured and solidly researched, consistently interesting, and richly textured, particularly regarding the paradox of defining the nation while addressing transnational discussions."

Eric G.E. Zuelow

Eric G.E. Zuelow is assistant professor of European History at the University of New England Department of History, special graduate faculty at the University of Guelph, Ontario, and adjunct graduate faculty at Union Institute and University.  Zuelow is especially interested in the evolution of national identity in the British Isles and in the history of popular culture in Europe.

He is co-editor of Nationalism in a Global Era: The Persistence of Nations (Routledge, 2007) and is author of Making Ireland Irish: Tourism and National Identity since the Irish Civil War (Syracuse University Press, 2009). Making Ireland Irish received the American Conference for Irish Studies 2009 James S. Donnelly, Sr. Prize for Books on History and the Social Sciences.  In addition, British Scholar, a scholarly organization based at the University of Texas, Austin, named Making Ireland Irish Book of the Month for May-June 2010.

He is reviews editor for the Journal of Tourism History and is the editor/creator of The Nationalism Project, a leading website devoted to the study of ethnicity and nationalism in global perspective.