Sport in British society has remarkably undergone a variety of alterations in terms of how they are played nowadays, and how they were performed back in the 19th century. The 19th century was a time of remarkable change and growth.
Britain was one of the initial industrial urban powers of the world which created a huge impact upon sport within the United Kingdom before many other countries. This essay will outline the history of sport after 1800, allowing for the changes occurring throughout it and then will assess boxing, horse racing and rugby.To understand the reasons for change within sport in 19th century Britain, it is important to acknowledge the pace of industrial, social and educational change.
Barry, 2002 explains how “sport after the 1800s underwent the transformation from rural to urban society which brought various changes to patterns of play”. With the urban revolution, the leisure patterns of the working classes changed remarkably. However, there was a long wait between urban growth in population and municipal provision for recreation. The base of evil pastimes had disappeared slowly, reflecting the alteration in social attitudes.The speed of the industrial revolution brought about ‘Saint Monday’ which was a consequence of the unwillingness of the working classes to give up their recreations.
Employees simply took the day off to go to prize fights or other such events as they always had done. The initial part of the 19th century saw many people abandon work to attend Shrove Tuesday to enjoy the manly game of football. Furthermore, the increase of steam power resulted in the dictation of fixed hours and shifts of work. The rapid expansion of industrialisation due to the mass exodus of people from the countryside to the towns resulted in recreational spaces making way for factories and cheap accommodation as towns grew rapidly in size.
The mushroomed towns often merged slums and middle class areas closer together with public parks being open to both. However, these parks were closed on Sundays; the only day the working classes were free from labour.Social change meant that the lower classes lost two recreational resources; time and space. Unfortunately, the new middle class had two prime objectives which were the creation of capital and good Christian living. The new found look upon acceptable recreation was those deemed ‘purposeful’. This created a barrier upon the access to sports.
It was up to the YMCA and other sporting governing bodies to provide access to sports. Eventually, the working class gained the Saturday half day and shorter shifts which made it possible for normal working class men to go back to recreation and other activities.The development of rationalised sport began in public schools, and was spread by ‘old boys’, clerics and school masters working in local communities. Governing bodies were set up to ensure a standardized set of rules and order amongst the middle class. However, the stages that spectators frequented still separated the lower classes from their ‘betters’ and the control over sport had passed from the parson and the squire to the new ordinary middle class.The new steam power trains allowed ordinary people cheap rail excursions to almost anywhere. Mass transport also provided regular fixtures to be scheduled for those who had the time and capital to enjoy them and the upcoming professional leagues in cricket, rugby league and football. Due to the increased literacy brought upon by the industrial revolution, the interest in sport amongst the ordinary people grew by the speed which the results could be spread around the country.
This growth of literacy also resulted in information being spread much more efficiently.Education in Britain in the 19th century had very little interest in sport until Thomas Arnold recognised that young men’s interest in sports could be an effective way to gain social control. It then led on to promoting muscular Christianity through manly games and sports which was seen as a good basis for character development and physical preparation. Sport was seen as a way to teach boys to be loyal, obedient and use fair play. Being gracious in defeat was a respectable Christian ethic and an essential moral to the rearing of young men.