How the Puritans reached first base

Sport in America
July 26, 1996

Sport in America spans 400 years of development, from Puritanism in the 16th century to cultural definitions of boxing in the 20th century.

In the opening essay, Allen Guttmann challenges the notions of early settlers' wholesale condemnation of sport and offers instead an interpretation in which involvement was based on the expediency of remaining fit and healthy in a harsh environment, rather than as recreation. Nancy Struna examines the consumption and production of sport in terms of gender relations, concluding that women in post-revolutionary America had more access to sport than is commonly assumed.

There is a look at how industrialisation, civil war, social class and geographic location shaped the nature and attitudes towards health and exercise at the beginning of the 19th century; and how in the second half, it evolved from being an essentially unorganised activity to becoming highly structured.

Two sections examine the effect consumer culture, two world wars and the advent of television had on sport this century. Prosperity, domestic crisis and international conflict are key themes leading up to 1945, whereas technology, civil rights and other social movements have been influential since. While sport in the latter period has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, it is that very internationalism that has created its most severe tensions.

Editor David Wiggins concludes the book by illustrating the positive role sport plays in the lives of many Americans, but he does not shy away from exploring its darker side - the racial and gender inequalities, the obsession with winning, the drug abuse and the violence .

Mark Hickman is researching a PhD in the social history of sport, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Sport in America: From Wicked Amusement to National Obsession

Editor - By David K. Wiggins
ISBN - 0 87322 520 1
Publisher - Human Kinetics
Price - £19.95
Pages - 352

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