gentlemen’s clubs

gentlemen’s clubs
The gentlemen’s club is a British institution. Gentlemen’s clubs are comfortable, private places with bars, a restaurant, a library and sometimes bedrooms. They attract as members businessmen, politicians and others from the upper class and the Establishment. Members use their club as a place to meet friends or take business contacts. Most are situated in London’s West End and many have large impressive buildings.
  Membership is expensive and at most clubs is restricted to men, though the Reform Club has had women members since the 1960s. Generally, women and other non-members are not allowed inside clubs except as guests of a member, and women are allowed only in certain rooms. Members must obey rules about dress and behaviour. People wanting to be members may have to wait a long time before they are admitted to the most popular clubs, and will only be allowed to join if an existing member seconds (= supports) them. Any member may object to membership being offered to a particular person by blackballing (= voting against) him.
  Gentlemen’s clubs developed in the mid 18th century. Men had previously met socially and to discuss business in coffee houses where coffee, tea and chocolate, all new drinks in Britain at the time, were available. White’s, the oldest London club, developed from a chocolate house. Some coffee houses, like the later clubs, were linked with particular professions. For instance, Lloyd’s coffee house was associated with shipping and later became Lloyd’s of London. In the 18th century clubs were mainly used for drinking and gambling but later attracted members who shared more serious interests. People interested in science and literature joined the Athenaeum, politicians went to the Reform, the Carlton Club or Brooks’s, and theatre people joined the Garrick.
  Today, the gentlemen’s club suggests to many people an old-fashioned world based on class, where snobbery and prejudice still survive. There is now less interest among younger business people in joining clubs and several have had to close.
  In the US there are not many institutions like the gentlemen’s club. Private universities like Harvard have alumni associations for people who have studied there, and being a member of such clubs is associated with wealth and social status. The club building of the Harvard Club has in many ways the atmosphere of an English gentlemen’s club.

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Universalium. 2010.

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