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Title: The Rise of Competitive Swimming 1840 to 1878
Contributor(s): Parker, C (author)
Publication Date: 2001
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Abstract: The main focus of swimming in the first half of the nineteenth century was simply for enjoyment and pleasure, plus its endorsement by society as a wholesome rational recreation. It was pursued at popular river sites, at the seaside, at private baths clubs or at the newly emerging municipal baths. The formation of swimming clubs, during the middle years of the century, was the beginning of a change in emphasis for swimming, from a rational, enjoyable, sociable activity to the emergence of swimming as a 'modern' competitive sport. This paper will examine the factors that influenced this shift in swimming from a 'rational' to a 'modern' sport. It will begin by briefly identifying the characteristics of modern sport as classified in Adelman's typology. The emergence of competitive swimming will then be discussed, by examining the activities and races of the early nineteenth century swimmers most of whom were professional. To demonstrate the continuing modernisation of the sport an overview of the first national swimming organisations will be undertaken, followed by an explanation for their ultimate decline. The changing attitude towards swimming by both government and social reformers, which resulted in the promotion of swimming as a sport, will be traced via the establishment of a specialised swimming press and ultimately through the passing of the 1878 Baths and Washhouses Act, which enabled Local Authorities to build covered swimming pools as opposed to public baths and washhouses. Finally, a brief review of some of the first swimming clubs to be established will explore the role of the professional in their formation. The paper will conclude with an assessment of whether swimming, by 1878 could claim to have become a 'modern' sport.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: The Sports Historian, 21(2), p. 58-72
Publisher: Routledge
Place of Publication: United Kingdom
ISSN: 1351-5462
Field of Research (FOR): 210399 Historical Studies not elsewhere classified
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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