Sports: The First Five Millennia / Edition 1

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From ancient Egyptian archery and medieval Japanesefootball to contemporary American baseball, every sport has been shaped by—and in turn has helped shape—the culture of which it is part. Yet as Allen Guttmann shows in this far-ranging study, for all their differences sports throughout the ages have exhibited many common characteristics. They have always been a domain for the cultivation of gender roles, for example, as well as for the enactment of class and ethnic identities. They have also followed a similar historical trajectory from traditional to modern forms.

Written in entertaining, accessible prose and illustrated with dozens of images, "Sports: The First Five Millennia" traces this evolution across continents, cultures, and historical epochs to present a single comprehensive narrative of the world's sports. Beginning with a discussion of what constitutes a sport—and what does not—he explores the vast variety of sports played by the preliterate peoples of the Americas and Africa, by the Greeks and Romans of antiquity, and in premodern China and Japan as well as in Islamic Asia and medieval Europe. These traditional sports include everything from Cherokee stickball and Chinese kite-flying to Persian wrestling and English bear-baiting.

Guttmann then turns his attention to modern sports, an invention of eighteenth-century England that spread throughout the world during the nineteenth century and became institutionalized during the twentieth. Marked by an adherence to codified rules and increasingly governed by international organizations such as the Fédération Internationale de Football Association and the International Olympic Committee, modern sports have all but displaced their traditional antecedents throughout the world. The book concludes with a look at how skateboarding, hang gliding, and other "postmodern" sports have resisted the transition from spontaneous play to institutionalized contest, only to succumb in the end to the lure of modernization.

"Allen Guttmann has consistently produced works that are at the forefront of investigations of 'sport' as an immensely significant social, cultural, and political phenomenon. 'Sports: The First Five Millennia' carries that tradition forward. With insight, thoroughness, and the remarkable range of knowledge for which he is well known, Guttmann has provided another excellent work. Of all the leading historians of sport in the world, I know of only one or two who might have come close to accomplishing what he has produced herein—and none who would have done so in such a readable manner."—Roberta J. Park, editor of "From 'Fair Sex' to Feminism: Sport and the Socialization of Women in the Industrial and Post-Industrial Eras"

Allen Guttmann teaches at Amherst College. Among his many books on the history of sports are "From Ritual to Record: The Nature of Modern Sports" (1978), "Women's Sports: A History" (1991), "Games and Empires" (1994), and "The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games"(2002).

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Editorial Reviews

"Guttmann makes a valiant, and for the most part, successful attempt to cover 5,000 years of sport in one book. . . .This is a valuable contribution to the literature. Highly reccommended."
Journal of Social History
In this his eleventh book on sport, dean of sport historians, Allen Guttmann, has produced an ambitious, accessibly written one volume synthesis of sport from its place in preliterate societies to the postmodern present in an economical 352 pages. The eighty-six pages of endnotes demonstrate Guttmann's unrivalled breadth of reading in non-English language sources and his authoritative grasp of the abundant, international secondary literature on sport history...
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558494701
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 12/29/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.41 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : rules of the game 1
1 Preliterate peoples 7
2 Before the Greeks 12
3 Greek athletic festivals 17
4 Roman sports 26
5 Traditional Asian sports 39
6 European sports from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance 52
7 "Made in England" : the invention of modern sports 68
8 Cricket follows the flag 77
9 The institutionalization of modern sports in Great Britain 89
10 The institutionalization of modern sports in the United States 118
11 Latin America : the Ingleses versus the Norteamericanos 167
12 Continental Europe : imports and exports 180
13 Technological sports 196
14 Modern sports in Asia 206
15 "Our former colonial masters" : African sports 239
16 Winter sports 250
17 The modern Olympic games 259
18 Resistance to modern sports 273
19 The survival of traditional sports 285
20 Instrumentalized sports 293
21 Modern sports as a global phenomenon 307
Coda : postmodernism and Les Sports Californiens 323
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