The history of modern tourism began on 5 July 1841, when a train carrying 500 factory workers travelled from
Leicester to Loughborough, twenty miles away, to attend a meeting about the danger of alcohol.
This modest excursion was organized by Thomas Cook, a young man with neither money nor formal
education. His motive was not profit, but social reform. Cook believed that the social problems of Britain
were caused by widespread alcoholism. Travel, he believed, would broaden the mind and distract people from
The success of Cook’s first excursion led to others, and the success of business was phenomenal. In 1851,
travel magazine; by 1872, the newsletter was selling 100,000 copies a month and its founder was treated as a
hero of a modern industrial age.
When Thomas Cook reached the age of sixty-three, there was one challenge ahead of him: to travel around the
otherwise. In 1869 two things happened that would make an overland journey possible: the opening of Suez
Canal and the completion of a railroad network that linked the continent of America from coast to coast.
He set off from Liverpool on the steamship Oceanic, bound for New York. Throughout his travels, his
by its open carriages, sleeping cars, on-board toilets and efficient baggage handling, he was shocked that men
and women were not required to sleep in separate carriages.
Japan delighted him. It was a land of ‘great beauty and fertility’, where the hotel served ‘the best roast beef we
‘We created quite a sensation’ he wrote.
Cook’s love of Japan was equaled only by his hatred of China. Shanghai, the next port of call, offered ‘narrow
He travelled to Singapore and as his set off across the Bay of Bengal, Cook was full of confident, feeling that
he understood ‘this business of pleasure’. But nothing he had seen in Shanghai could have prepared him for
the culture shock of India.
‘At the holy city of Benares, we were conducted through centers of filth and obscenity’, he wrote. From the
beside the river. He found these scenes ‘revolting in the extreme’.
By the time Cook left Bombay for Egypt, he was showing sign of tiredness. On 15 February 1873, while
years of travelling, with the view of making travelling easy, cheap and safe for others, I ought to rest.’ In
Cairo, he fell seriously ill for the first time.
Cook arrived home in England after 222 days abroad. Although he never tempted another world tour, he
seasonal visits to Egypt until the late 1880s. He died in July 1892 at the age of eighty-three.