Bare-Knuckle Britons and Fighting Irish

Boxing, Race, Religion and Nationality in the 18th and 19th Centuries


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About the Book

Boxing was phenomenally popular in 18th and 19th century Britain. Aristocrats attended matches and patronized boxers, and the most important fights drew tens of thousands of spectators. Promoters of the sport claimed that it showcased the timeless and authentic ideal of English manhood—a rock of stability in changing times. Yet many of the best fighters of the era were Irish, Jewish or black.
This history focuses on how boxers, journalists, politicians, pub owners and others used national, religious and racial identities to promote pugilism and its pure English pedigree, even as ethnic minorities won distinction in the sport, putting the diversity of the Empire on display.

About the Author(s)

Adam Chill is an associate professor of history and global studies at Castleton University in Vermont.

Bibliographic Details

Adam Chill
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: 25 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6330-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3028-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction 4
One. Blood Sport, Identity and the Making of ­Bare-Knuckle Prizefighting, c. 1660–1770 9
Two. Britishness, Minorities and the Revival of Prizefighting, 1770–1790 26
Three. Sport as Symbol: Prizefighting in the Age of the French Revolution, 1790–1802 49
Four. National Spirit, Minorities and Prizefighting During the War with Napoleon, 1803–1812 72
Five. The Rise of “Boxing’s Professionals”: Journalists and Boxers in the Postwar Years, 1812–1823 99
Six. The Career of Jack Langan, Ethnic Entrepreneur 124
Seven. Emphasizing Englishness in the Age of Reform, 1825–1833 149
Eight. The Spread and Transformation of ­Bare-Knuckle Boxing in the Victorian World, 1834–1867 170
Conclusion 197
Chapter Notes 201
Bibliography 226
Index 235

Book Reviews & Awards

“In this compelling volume, historian Chill focuses on modern boxing’s roots…Chill also captures the mise-en-scène of the sport, from the pubs and gambling halls to the action in the ring…recommended”—Choice

“A well-researched study”—The Ring

“A really insightful account that offers an original and significant contribution to the literature. The work draws attention to the lives of a number of fighters and provides important insights into the ways in which the identities of these men were continually (re)shaped to develop the business side of the events. It is a historical study that outlines many of the issues that continue to shape the world of some combat sports today.”—John Harris, coeditor, Sport and Social Identities.