Fight Sports and American Masculinity

Salvation in Violence from 1607 to the Present

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About the Book

Throughout America’s past, some men have feared the descent of their gender into effeminacy, and turned their eyes to the ring in hopes of salvation. This work explains how the dominant fight sports in the United States have changed over time in response to broad shifts in American culture and ideals of manhood, and presents a narrative of American history as seen from the bars, gyms, stadiums and living rooms of the heartland. Ordinary Americans were the agents who supported and participated in fight sports and determined its vision of masculinity.
This work counters the economic determinism prevalent in studies of American fight sports, which overemphasize profit as the driving force in the popularization of these sports. The author also disputes previous scholarship’s domestic focus, with an appreciation of how American fight sports are connected to the rest of the world.

About the Author(s)

Christopher David Thrasher is a professor of history at Calhoun College in Decatur, Alabama and the author of several scholarly articles on the history of fight sports. He lives in Harvest, Alabama.

Bibliographic Details

Christopher David Thrasher
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 300
Bibliographic Info: 42 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9704-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1823-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments  vi

Preface  1

Introduction: Global Fight Sports from Prehistory to 1607  13

I. “To Cut Out the Tongue or Pull Out the Eyes”: Fight Sports in the Americas, 1607–1810  29

II. “A Boxing We Will Go”: Boxing Takes Root in the United States, 1810–1915  49

III. “With the Energy of a ­Trip-Hammer and the Vehemence of a Sioux”: Asian Martial Arts Come to the United States, 1850–1941  99

IV. “We Live in Our Heroes”: Boxing Reigns Supreme in the United States, 1915–1941  140

V. “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting”: Asian Martial Arts Gain Unprecedented Popularity in the United States, 1941–1981  166

VI. “We Shall Not Stand by Helplessly”: The Birth of Mixed Martial Arts, 1981 to the Present  198

Chapter Notes  237

Bibliography  280

Index  290


Book Reviews & Awards

“research yields many surprising finds…there is much to learn from this book…recommended”—Choice.