Read an extract from on Yale's blog Nights Out" /> Read an extract from on Yale's blog Nights Out" />

Nights Out Life in Cosmopolitan London Judith Walkowitz

Publication date:
15 Mar 2012
Yale University Press
432 pages: 229 x 152mm
37 b-w integrated & 8 pp. col illus.
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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 fin-de-siecle buildings and dark streets infamous for sex, crime, political disloyalty, and ethnic diversity became a centre of culinary and cultural tourism servicing patrons of nearby shops and theatres. 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, liminality, 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.


Read an extract from on Yale's blog Nights Out

"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] 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 ninettenth 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