Sports: The First Five Millennia

ISBN 10: 1558494707 / ISBN 13: 9781558494701
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Synopsis: A lively cultural history of world sports from antiquity to the present. Winner of the 2005 Book Award of the North American Society for Sport History. From ancient Egyptian archery and medieval Japanese football 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.

About the Author: 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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