1st Edition

Women, Horse Sports and Liberation Equestrianism and Britain from the 18th to the 20th Centuries

By Erica Munkwitz Copyright 2021
    328 Pages 49 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    328 Pages 49 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    *Shortlisted for the 2022 Lord Aberdare Literary Prize*

    This book is the first, full-length scholarly examination of British women’s involvement in equestrianism from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, as well as the corresponding transformations of gender, class, sport, and national identity in Britain and its Empire.

    It argues that women’s participation in horse sports transcended limitations of class and gender in Britain and highlights the democratic ethos that allowed anyone skilled enough to ride and hunt – from chimney-sweep to courtesan. Furthermore, women’s involvement in equestrianism reshaped ideals of race and reinforced imperial ideology at the zenith of the British Empire. Here, British women abandoned the sidesaddle – which they had been riding in for almost half a millennium – to ride astride like men, thus gaining complete equality on horseback. Yet female equestrians did not seek further emancipation in the form of political rights. This paradox – of achieving equality through sport but not through politics – shows how liberating sport was for women into the twentieth century. It brings into question what “emancipation” meant in practice to women in Britain from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries.

    This is fascinating reading for scholars of sports history, women's history, British history, and imperial history, as well as those interested in the broader social, gendered, and political histories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and for all equestrian enthusiasts.

    Introduction: The Development of Horsemanship, Gender Construction, and National Identity in Britain

    1          Ladies, Hunting, and the Sporting Revolution in Britain, 1772-1825

    2          Horseback Riding as Exercise and Female Accomplishment, 1805-1857

    3          Fox Hunting and Sporting Emancipation for Women, 1857-1913

    4          Horse Sports, Imperial Ideology, and Gender Construction in British India, 1850-1913

    5          Femininity, Sporting Equality, and Riding Astride in Britain Before and After the First World War, 1894-1932

    Conclusion: Equestrianism, Feminism, and the Olympic Games, 1932-1956


    Erica Munkwitz is Professorial Lecturer in Modern British and European history at American University in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Her research focuses on gender, sport, and empire in modern Britain, and specifically on women’s involvement in equestrianism. In 2016, she received the Junior/Early Career Scholar Award from the European Committee for Sports History, and, in 2018, she received the Solidarity Prize for Excellence in Early Career Equine Research.

    "Muntwitz gives the reader excellent insights into the material culture of women’s equestrianism. ... This is fascinating reading for all interested in how the intertwinement of material culture, gender, social class, nation, and whiteness influenced who participated in the sport and related activities and how the different positions were more or less important in various times and places." - Susanna Hedenborg, Journal of Sport History

     "For the reader, the history of female riders and female riding developing from the limited possibilities in the sidesaddle to the freedom of movement when riding astride, is – from my personal perspective at least – an unexpected and very refreshing picture of the British female rider." - Petra Andersson, Idrottsforum