Toeing the scratch: a historical analysis of the transition of Welsh prize-fighting, c.1750-c.1918.

Gardiner, Christopher M.S. (2020). Toeing the scratch: a historical analysis of the transition of Welsh prize-fighting, c.1750-c.1918. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Pugilism, or boxing as it is more commonly known, has arguably become one of the most exciting, important and controversial sports in the world; it has evolved from one-to-one combat ungoverned by rules into modern boxing which has a strong organisational basis and set regulations. No longer just a sport, it has become a major business with strong links to commercial enterprise and vast sums of money are often spent on broadcasting rights. Undoubtedly, public evaluation of boxing is simply one of violence, yet beyond the spectacle of violent confrontation, it is a sport that demands high levels of skill, courage, discipline, intelligence, sacrifice and respect.

The principal aim of this study is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the transitional state of prize-fighting throughout the nineteenth century into early twentieth century. To achieve this, it will be necessary to consider how societal mores, particularly of middle-class moralists and religious observers affected prize-fighting, and how the sport adapted to changing social expectations in order to survive. To fully understand prize-fighting’s social significance in Wales this study will consider various perspectives: the importance of locality and more widely national identity, class distinctions, and the impact of industrialisation and urbanisation on the sport.

The thesis will argue that the harsh social conditions of nineteenth century Wales drove many men and women into the prize-fighting arena. Although prize-fighting was considered illegal it was a sport that offered a beneficial convergence of the classes. The study will contend that the control of prize-fighting exerted by the gentry, along with a proliferation of reports in the burgeoning newspaper industry and wider reflection of contemporary literature, helped the sport to survive the nineteenth century. This investigation will discern how the implementation of new rules that were introduced to regulate the sport, or at least to curtail its excesses, most notably in the Marques of Queensberry Rules (1867), helped the sport achieve greater respectability and counter the arguments of nineteenth century moralists. Moreover, in response to the preparations for war, prize-fighters were encouraged to accept positions within the armed forces and this study will analyse the impact that Welsh pugilists had on physical fitness, morale, and their understanding of what a soldier ought to represent. Finally, the thesis will view the morality of prize-fighting and deliberate whether the sport was actually brutal or beautiful!

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History


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