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Sport in History 3 : Industrial Europe

Updated on December 30, 2017

Industrial European Sportscapes

MODERNISATION IN EUROPE
The rise of industrialization had an indelible impact on the development of the nature of play and sports. In parallel to this though was the equally influential development of Romanticism. The mathematical empirical, scientific world view that is the result of Enlightenment thinking, coupled with the changing social structure of society from rule by feudal nobility to the bourgeoise middle classes all lead to the evolution to what we now can identify as the characteristics of modern sport. Guttman has classified these characteristics as;
-secularism
-equality of opportunity to compete
-specialisation of roles
-rationalisation
-bureaucratic organization
-quantification
-the quest for records(p.16)
All of these characteristics relate to the modern prediliction for the idea of progress, for competition and for the constant pursuit of better and faster achievement. This appears to be the dominant face of sport in the modern day, but the development of sport in the nineteenth century was not all the one way. Criticism of the competitive and alienating aspect of competitive sport (the English tradition) emerged in countries such as Germany and Sweden. Nationalism and the romantic movement, especially in the German situation produced attitudes to sport that were directly opposed to the English direction. The Romantic nationalists considered modern sporting developments as liberal, rational, international and un-German(Guttman p.88). The contrast in the facilities and landscapes that contained these differing views of what physical activity should be is also apparent. A typical quote from the writing of the time from the romantics called for , “a renunciation of concrete stadium, cinder track, tape measure, stop watch, manicured lawn, and track shoes(English)….in their place comes the simple meadow, free nature (German).”(Guttmanp.88) These developments can be considered further.

Developments in European, particularly western European society are crucial to an understanding of much of what is recognized as the sporting environment today. Aspects of the urbanization process following the French revolution and the emergence of Enlightenment thinking radically changed the socialization process in western Europe. The large bureaucracies that emerged, the separation of the family and workplace, and the growth of institutionalization all led to increasing regularization and specialization. Nationalism and the nation state also emerged. Such changes brought about changes in the concepts of physical culture and these differed depending on the differing contexts and conditions of each country. Three prominent directions emerged during the nineteenth century; German Turnen, Swedish gymnastics and English sport.
German Turnen was initiated by Friedrich Jahn as a nationalistic education in Germany as Germany was developing a German state. It involves all kinds of exercise on apparatus, games, traditional forms of exercise such as running, jumping and lifting weights as well as swimming, fencing and wrestling.(Pfisterr.66)


The apparatus and facilities used for these activities are recognizable in gymnastics today, such as parallel bars or the wooden vaulting horse, but the theories behind the movement did not focus on unlimited increase in performance or abstract achievement, as is recognised in the modern sport paradigm. Relative achievement and military performance were the main goals, achieved through structuring the activities as only an immediate contest with others. Additionally, Turnen involved more than merely physical exercise, containing other ingredients such as patriotic speeches, traditional songs and fatherland excursions(Pfisterp.67) Turnen had a strong political agenda and was deemed subversive before eventually being integrated into the curriculum of boys’ secondary schools in 1842.
Swedish gymnastics were based more on scientific basis but again had a nationalistic persuasion. Anatomy and the laws of the human body were paramount in Ling’s theories on physical education and he attempted to explain the relationship between the body and soul and the physiological and psychological. Ling’s exercises and movements were considered by some, namely doctors, as irrational and speculative(pfisterp.69) being as they were based on their effect on different parts of the body, muscles and internal organs. The main principle of the Swedish gymnastics was that the exercises should be simple, involve the whole body and encourage participation by everybody. Apparatus such as bars, ladders and ropes were used, along with free exercises. Essentially, the program was complete functionality, fun was not considered important and competition and records were not considered a part of the philosophy.
When referring to Eichberg's trialectic, both of these movements can be defined as reproductive and a-productive activities.
Sport as we know it today is considered to have emerged in England, with the most important trait being that of the abstracting of performance so that the achievement, athlete and opponent are negated to an abstract figure.(fn) The public schools system in England is thought to be the environment that created what has become known as the system of ‘fair play’ that characterizes much of what is recognized in the English sporting system. Chaotic and unruly games existed in the schools as lawlessness and harsh survival culture was enmeshed in these aristocratic institutions. With changing social structures (ascendent middle class families)an attempt was made that aimed to tame behaviour through the social control of organized sports ‘out on the field’. As such this notion of fair play was a practical necessity more than an ideology but soon developed into the notion of manliness by virtue of sport’s capacity to develop responsibility, initiative, self confidence and the will to win. (fn)
While all of these developments have differences their similarities are apparent. All
conclude with a rational approach to body movement, systemization, an educational contribution and national identity. All of them considered their system as superior to the others. Common to all of the developments is also the formation of manliness or masculinity culture, considered as vital to develop the competitive character necessary in the modern world. As these developments in physical culture spread, being modified and adapted to the various cultures they colonized, gender and class preferences emerged. Gymnastics influenced the physical education of girls and sport became the male domain.(pfisterp.81). Rivalries existed as each movement traveled, largely to do with nationalist politics or differing cultural attitudes to the outcomes of the movements. For instance the German Turners could not accept the limited benefit of the performance fixation in English sport and questioned its aesthetic value. Cooperation and aesthetics counted more to Turnen than competition and efficiency. Gradually, both forms of gymnastics and the ideology behind them became ‘sportised’, rules and limits were developed and winning had to become one of the principles of these traditional activites. The victory of sport over the other non outcome based activites has been surmised as running in parallel to the development of the modern state, with its usefulness in reducing tension and channeling aggression as a surrogate for war and violence. Pyschological aspects have also been offered as explanation for sport's rise, offering a wider variety of physical and psychological satisfaction along with greater speed and spontaneity than the gymnastics display(Pfisterp.86) Perhaps most powerful an influence was the attraction to the spectator as well as the participant and the availability for the same activities and practices to symbolize different traditions and values. We only have to consider the varying national styles of play identified in something like World Cup football to recognize this. At this time of emerging nationalism this aspect of sport was seen as a powerful way to express nationhood. Recent trends in physical culture need to be analysed to assess how the dominance of competitive sport and its relationship to the other aspects of the trialectic, namely the reproductive and aproductive aspects, has evolved. This will be covered further along. The emergence of urbanization in Europe and especially America further affected the landscape and facilities of sports.

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