Sports and Physical Exercise in Early Modern Culture : New Perspectives on the History of Sports and Motion book cover
1st Edition

Sports and Physical Exercise in Early Modern Culture
New Perspectives on the History of Sports and Motion

ISBN 9781472411945
Published June 3, 2016 by Routledge
286 Pages

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Book Description

It is often assumed that a recognisably modern sporting culture did not emerge until the eighteenth century. The plethora of physical training and games that existed before 1700 tend to fall victim to rigid historical boundaries drawn between "modern" and "pre-modern" sports, which are concerned primarily with levels of regulation, organization and competitiveness. Adopting a much broader and culturally based approach, the essays in this collection offer an alternative view of sport in the early modern period. Taking into account a variety of competitive as well as non-competitive forms of sport, physical training and games, the collection situates these types of activities as institutions in their own right within the socio-cultural context of early-modern Europe.

Treating the period not only as a precursor of modern developments, but as an independent and formative era, the essays engage with overlooked topics and sources such as court records, self-narratives, and visual materials, and with contemporary discussions about space, gender and postcolonial studies. By allowing for this increased contextualization of sport, the collection is able to integrate it into more general historical questions and approaches.

The volume underlines how developments in early modern sport influenced later developments, whilst at the same time being thoroughly shaped by contemporary notions of the body, status and honour. These notions influenced not only the contemporary sporting fashion but the adoption of sports in elite education, the use of sports facilities, training methods and modes of competition, thus offering a more integrated idea of the place of sport in early modern society.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Notes on Contributors



Rebekka v. Mallinckrodt and Angela Schattner

I: What Sports? Tracing Early Modern Sports Practices

1 The Invention of Sports: Early Modern Ball Games

Wolfgang Behringer

2 Sport and Recreation in Sixteenth-Century England: The Evidence of Accidental Deaths

Steven Gunn and Tomasz Gromelski

3 Putting Sports in Place: Sports Venues in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England and their Social Significance

Angela Schattner

II: Sport for Money and Glory? Commercialisation and Professionalisation

4 The Capital of Tennis: Jeux de Paume as Urban Sport Facilities in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Paris

Christian Jaser

5 The Bruising Business: Pugilism, Commercial Culture and Celebrity, 1700–1750

Benjamin Litherland

6 An ‘Art and a Science’: Eighteenth-Century Sports Training

David Day

III: Promoting Health or Danger? Physical Exercise under Scrutiny

7 Exercise for Women

Alessandro Arcangeli

8 Healthy, ‘Decorous’ and Pleasant Exercise: Competing Models and Practices of the Italian Nobility (Sixteenth to Seventeenth Centuries)

Sandra Cavallo and Tessa Storey

9 Exercise, Health and Gender: Normative Discourses and Practices in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century German-Speaking Countries

Martin Dinges

IV: Enhancing or Endangering Status and Identity?

10 Masculine and Political Identity in German Martial Sports

B. Ann Tlusty

11 French Enlightenment Swimming

Rebekka v. Mallinckrodt

12 Swordsmanship and Society in Early Modern Japan

Michael Wert


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Rebekka von Mallinckrodt is Professor for Early Modern History at the University of Bremen. She has worked in the field of religious studies, history of the body as well as postcolonial studies. With regard to sports and physical exercise she has published Bewegtes Leben - Körpertechniken in der Frühen Neuzeit (Body Techniques in the Early Modern Period), exposition catalogue Herzog August Library Wolfenbüttel (Harrassowitz 2008) as well as several articles on the cultural history of swimming, diving and running.

Dr Angela Schattner is Max Weber 2016/17 Fellow at the University of Bremen and was Research Fellow in Early Modern History at the German Historical Institute London from 2010-2016. She specialises in the social and cultural history of Early Modern Britain and Germany and the history of the body, disability, sports, exercise and leisure. She is the author of Zwischen Familie, Heiler und Fürsorge. Das Bewältigungsverhalten von Epileptikern in deutschsprachigen Gebieten des 16.-18. Jahrunderts.


"From all points of view, Mallinckrodt's and Schattner's books is an essential set of studies for historians of sport and the body and in addition for social and cultural historians who have neglected the role athletic activities played in the fabric of early modern societies." - John McClelland, Ludica. Annali di storia e civiltà del gioco, 21-22, 2015-2016