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The first biography of Thomas Cook, the inventor of leisure travel
Victorian England discovered the exhilaration of railways. In 1841, Thomas Cook organizes the first special train for 570 pioneers headed to a temperance meeting. He is at once a gardener, a Baptist preacher, a cabinetmaker, and printer, but at age 33, he has just discovered his true vocation: helping the...
Victorian England discovered the exhilaration of railways. In 1841, Thomas Cook organizes the first special train for 570 pioneers headed to a temperance meeting. He is at once a gardener, a Baptist preacher, a cabinetmaker, and printer, but at age 33, he has just discovered his true vocation: helping the English, who never leave their quaint cottages, to open their eyes to the whole world. For this idealist, each excursion becomes a tremendous history and geography lesson meant to bring people together. He devises the first tourist routes in Scotland, brings thousands of workers to Paris, revolutionizes Swiss hotels, attends the opening of the Suez Canal, organizes luxury caravans to cross Palestine on the way to Jerusalem, and, with the aid of his son John, creates his own fleet of boats on the Nile. Thanks to him, women can finally be freed of the weights of Victorian society. When they get back home, they write enthusiastic letters about their trips and only dream of one thing: leaving again. The liberal Prime Minister Gladstone describes Cook’s enterprise as one of the “great contributions to the progress of humanity.” On September 20, 1872, Cook embarks from Liverpool for his first around-the-world trip, before Jules Verne has even published Around the World in 80 Days. Agatha Christie, Rudyard Kipling, Indian Princes, and the emperor of Germany are all clients of the Thomas Cook and Son Agency. With his books of hotel coupons, his service offering traveler’s checks, passports and visa, his offices in several countries, and his uniformed employees in train stations and sea ports, his agency too every care to put even the most anxious traveler at ease and launch modern tourism. In 1928, Cook’s grandson will sell the agency to the Compagnie des Wagon-Lits. A world leader in travel, Thomas Cook still has thousands of agencies around the world.
With Editions Robert Laffont, Béatrix de l’Aulnoit and Philippe Alexandre have published the successful biographies For My Son, For My King (2009, 16,000 copies sold) and The Last Queen (2000, 50,000 copies sold).