The Cult of Athleticism in Public Schools

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The Cult of Athleticism in Public Schools

‘Athleticism can be defined as the ability to participate within a sport, being able to excel in a sport of your choice. Also athleticism was believed in order to grow as an individual, where it was greatly supported by all especially parents and teachers of the younger generations.’

(Mangan, J. 2010 International Journal of the History of Sport, Volume 27, Issue 1 &2, pp. 60-77.)

This essay will address how athleticism and the ‘cult of athleticism’ changed public schools between the 18th and 19th century. It will discuss the industrial revolution and how the classes determined who participated in sport and how.

Between the 18th and 19th century, the class you were in very much determined the people who participated in sport. Before the industrial revolution there were two, so called, classes. The working class and the upper class. The income you had and your socialising groups generally determined the class you were in. For instance, if you had a low income and did manual work for a living, you were generally seen as working class. Whereas the upper class, were generally rich from birth and had titles. They thought that they had a birth right to be exclusive from the working class and thought they were below them.

‘The prejudice against excellence of performance was underpinned by a similar distaste for trade learned in classical education, which stressed the athein concept of people born to rule’ (Neil Wigglesworth. The Story of Sport in England. Chapt. 6 p-73) The above quote shows how the upper class thought that it was their birth right to rule. It wasn’t until when the industrial revolution swept over Britain that there was an emergence of the middle class. Before the industrial revolution, sport was completely dominated by the rich and powerful (upper class). At this time sports such as Rugby and Cricket were only played in public schools. The upper class saw the opportunity to send their...
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