Tourism is now the world’s largest industry. Little, though, is generally known about its pioneer, Thomas Cook, the man who revolutionized travel, invented package holidays and brought mobility to the masses. The sex, alcohol, over-spending, indolent leisure and extravagance that are now so happily associated with much of the holiday industry would have horrified him. Few people know of his pre-occupation with God, the East Midlands and the Holy Land, his determination to improve the lot of the working classes or his abhorrence of beer houses, pubs and gin palaces. In the nineteenth century, no priest, no minister, in any country, did more than this diminutive former preacher to shape both Evangelical contact and Protestant attitudes to Palestine. He brought the largest number of British people there since either the Crusades or the pilgrimages in the Middle Ages. By opening up Palestine to tourism, Cook provided a way for the British to reconnect with their religious roots.
Cook’s work was impelled by religion. After his baptism at the Baptist chapel in his childhood village of Melbourne, Derbyshire, at the age of seventeen in 1826, the Bible was the well-spring of his life, and after taking the Pledge at the age of twenty-four in 1833, Temperance was the catalyst. Indeed, religion gave him drive and purpose. Cut-price package tourism became a social mission, something elevating and educating.