Discuss Athletics as a Pre-Industrial Popular Recreation and as a Post-Industrial Rational Recreation. Include a Critical Evaluation of the Effect of Social Class on Participation in Popular and Rational Athletic Events

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Athletics had relative importance in pre-industrial Britain mostly taking place at traditional fairs and festivals. For example a wake was seen as a great social occasion whereby mainly the lower class men would compete in events such as stick fighting, running, climbing a greasy pole and wrestling. These activities were seen as ‘athletic’ events and were an opportunity for the lower class men to show off their power and strength to the women. In addition women had the opportunity to take part in events such as smock races. Festivals and fairs such as these would take place on church holy days such as Easter and were seen as a chance for celebration and enjoyment. Prime examples of Festivals such as these include the Much Wenlock and Dover games. Occasions such as these involved many characteristics of general popular recreational activities. Rules were simple and also unwritten mostly because the majority were illiterate and therefore rules were seen as ‘common knowledge’. Furthermore, community events were occasional and would only take place on holy days, which meant that when the time came for a festival or fair, the lower class would grasp the opportunity to have a day of enjoyment and take part in athletics. Athletics in pre-industrial Britain was also local as festivals and fairs tended to take place in villages and small towns whereby neighbours and friends would get together and celebrate. Wagering would also take place, whereby friends would bet on the athlete’s performance in an attempt to make some money. Pedestrianism was also a key part of pre-industrial athletics. Footmen were employed as messengers or as runners in competitions. The gentry would pay for the footman to train and would then enter them into competitions to make money. Pedestrian races would often attract extremely large audiences and developed spectatorism. In the 1860s the great American Indian Athlete Deerfoot visited England and helped to inspire early amateur athletics. In...
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