A Global History

But It Now

Robert C. Ritchie

Robert C. Ritchie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland and received his early education there and in Toronto, Canada where his family migrated after World War II. His family continued to move west, and he finished high school in California. He went on to receive his A.B. from Occidental College and his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles. His specialty is Early American history, especially the seventeenth century, but he also has a strong interest in early modern England. In 1969, he became a member of the History Department at the University of California, San Diego, where he went through the ranks to full Professor. From 1986 to 1990, he joined the administration, where he served as Associate Chancellor. He left UCSD in 1992 to become the W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at The Huntington. He retired from that position in 2011 and is now Senior Research Associate at the Huntington.

A human and global take on a beloved vacation spot.

The crash of surf, smell of salted air, wet whorls of sand underfoot. These are the sensations of the beach, that environment that has drawn humans to its life-sustaining shores for millennia. And while the gull’s cry and the cove’s splendor have remained constant throughout time, our relationship with the beach has been as fluid as the runnels left behind by the tide’s turning.

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Editorial Reviews

  • Richard White
    Humans have bared far more than their bodies in going to the beach. Class and racial tensions, national differences, preoccupations with health, changing sexual mores and gender roles, the evolution of popular culture, national differences, and environmental change are all on full display. Beaches are where leisure has become a business. Ritchie conducts a 2,000-year tour of the world&;s beaches. Rarely will readers learn so much so painlessly.
    Richard White
    Author of The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896
  • Orrin Pilkey
    Robert C. Ritchie presents a fascinating global history of how we played at the beach from the eighteenth-century days of horse-drawn bathing machines for women in long gowns to the rise of beach resorts and the evolution of increasing skin exposure in female swimming garb.
    Orrin Pilkey
    Emeritus Coastal Geologist, Duke University
  • Lena Lencek
    Drawing on extensive research, this engaging and informative new history of the therapeutic and recreational beach, from Roman times to the present, offers rich insights into how technology, economics, and class conspired with mores, manners, and medical science to produce the myth and reality of the beach as the premier site of our leisure escapes.
    Lena Lencek
    Coauthor of The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth
  • Alan Taylor
    With insight and wit, Ritchie traces the long and shifting human fascination with beaches, the alluring frontier of land and sea. From Baiae to Brighton and the Riviera to Waikiki, Ritchie illuminates the fancies and fashions of humanity over two thousand years to the current peril of rising ocean levels. Timely and lively, The Lure of the Beach can be read in the den or, better still, at the shore.
    Alan Taylor
    Author of Thomas Jefferson's Education