The Shared Origins of Football, Rugby, and Soccer by Christopher Rowley

The Shared Origins of Football, Rugby, and Soccer by Christopher Rowley

Author:Christopher Rowley
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: undefined
Publisher: undefined
Published: 2012-11-18T05:00:00+00:00

The Vannetais are, of course, the descendants of the shipbuilding Veneti, who once controlled the trade in tin with Cornwall.

Brittany remains distinct—the Wales and Cornwall of France—where the Celtic past and independent ways are never far from the surface. The game of la soule, like cnapan and Cornish hurling, is an echo of that past.

However, French education, while the equal of what was available in England, did not see local grammar schools of medieval foundation grow into schools for the wealthy in the way that Eton, Winchester, Harrow, and Westminster had. Until the French Revolution in 1789, schools and colleges were largely Catholic Church enterprises. They were then nationalized and the priests dismissed. Both the Republic and Napoleon set up schools and lycées, and spread liberal arts education more widely. Education remained a political battleground through the nineteenth century. While sports activity must have been part of the lives of young people, especially boys, it does not seem to have involved games of football until later in the nineteenth century, when the French took up rugby, followed by the association game, both imports from across the English Channel.

Across the Atlantic, however, other games were stirring that would eventually influence football in a powerful way.

The rough “mob football” tradition had inevitably crossed the ocean with some of the emigrants from England. There are tales of early settlers at Jamestown kicking a football around. This might not have been so obvious among the Puritans who went to Massachusetts or even the later Cavaliers who went to Virginia, but the third great wave of emigrants, the “Borderlanders,” often called the “Scotch Irish,” most certainly took the concept with them. In the nineteenth century, many upper-class American boys were sent to England to be schooled at Eton, Harrow, and the other large public schools. There they encountered the burgeoning culture of football games in their different forms.

When the games arrived in the New World, they percolated upward, remaining below the cultural radar until the early decades of the nineteenth century. As had been the case in England, “mob football,” in its many variations, and the football concept in general arose at the elite American universities.

The early American colleges tended to be founded by religious groups with a strong sense of moral purpose, and they had an atmosphere reminiscent of sixteenth-century Eton. When young men were not studying, they were meant to be praying or asleep on their hard beds in freezing dormitories. Conditions were, at best, uncomfortable, and the food was ghastly. At Harvard, the earliest and best known American college, it was referred to as the “commons” and was the cause of riots leading to its abolition in 1849.

The faculty at most of these colleges also acted as provosts or sheriffs, determined to keep order and prevent any of the “vicious” immorality that so beset the English public schools in the late eighteenth century. Duels, drinking, cock fighting, gambling, and sexuality of all varieties were evils to be kept at bay. This drawing


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