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HOW THE VICTORIANS WENT CAMPING

JSTOR Daily

If you’re going camping this summer, will you rough it on a wilderness hike, or relax in a yurt at a four-star resort? In the late nineteenth century, the tension between savoring the wilderness and recreating civilized life outdoors was very much on the minds of the first recreational campers, as Phoebe Kropp explains.

After the Civil War, camping went from a necessity for soldiers and transient people to recreation for the upper-middle-class. Kropp argues that Victorian-era campers were playing around with the concept of comfort. For the upper-middle-class, keeping a comfortable home—rather than an impoverished or luxurious one—was a sign of respectability. But being “too comfortable,” or over-dependent on civilized society, was a danger...