Athleticism : a comparative study of the emergence and consolidation of an educational ideology

Mangan, James A. (1976) Athleticism : a comparative study of the emergence and consolidation of an educational ideology. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study involves an analysis of the nature and evolution of ideological power in an educational setting. The ideology chosen for investigation is Athleticism, the preoccupation for whatever reason with physical exercise, seemingly dominant in that unique phenomenon of the English social system, the public school, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Part I consists of the key definitions of public school, ideology and athleticism, together with a discussion of the research methodology adopted. As regards the approach taken, it is, of course, a truism that generalisations limit understanding as well as promote it. For this reason statements at the level of the particular, allowing refinement, qualification and sometimes correction, serve a useful purpose. This study of the English public school, in contrast to earlier extensive surveys, is deliberately intensive. As such it is intended to be complementary. Its scale, it is suggested, permits a more detailed investigation of variation in belief and action than the general study, but precludes confident extrapolation. In addition, it is hoped, its structure furthers the construction of generalisations based on substantial evidence rather than fragmentary selection. This thesis, therefore, examines the emergence and development of athleticism in six public schools of quite distinct origin and status: Harrow (Great School), Lancing (Woodard School), Loretto (Private Venture School), Marlborough (Proprietary School), Stonyhurst (Sectarian School) and Uppingham (Elevated Grammar School). Social scientists have defined 'ideology' variously, and the contention here is that several definitions used conjointly are helpful in promoting an understanding of the nature of athleticism in the late Victorian and Edwardian public school. In the first place it was a set of beliefs intended to influence behaviour; but it was much more - a complex of beliefs, arguments, actions, feelings and symbols existing in conjunction with, and created out of, a purposefully constructed system of organisation, control and manipulation. It constituted also, a cluster of value-judgements posing as facts in the interests of ensuring its pre-eminence. It was, on occasion, a pseudo-rationale, to use an ungainly Marxist expression, ostensibly an argument for one thing but in reality a device for achieving something else; specifically, those who used it affected to develop character when they were often preoccupied with order. It is of the greatest importance to stress that throughout its existence, athleticism was most or all of these things depending on the moment surveyed and the school scrutinised. It was a complex manifestation. Certain scholars, unhappily, either fail to define athleticism while discussing its shortcomings at length, or define it so narrowly as to overlook certain essential elements. It should be made clear, therefore, that it was not exclusively vicious but harboured virtuousness. While its vices are fully acknowledged, the case is made in the following pages for a more scrupulous and balanced appraisal of its nature. Part II is devoted to tracing the development of athleticism from disparate origins to considerable uniformity. Reference has already been made to the scope the survey offers for an analysis of variation. In the six schools of the study investigation reveals that the ideology arose variously out of pragmatism, emulation and idealism; out also that powerful counter-ideological pressures ensured its virtual suppression in one school. Observation of the erratic but definite progress to conformity which occurred in five of the six survey schools between 1860 and 1900, has produced evidence hitherto overlooked, which has resulted in an interpretation of events running counter to some established views. For example, it has been suggested that the introduction of compulsory games in the public schools may be attributed to emthusiastic pupils. The schools of the survey offer little evidence off this. Indeed it is argued in the following pages, that headmasters had a far from insignificant part to play. Again in some of the survey schools, there was considerable opposition to compulsion, games regimentation brought depression rather than euphoria and systematiz-attion was far from complete by 1880. Yet this is the year chosen by one widely read commentator to mark the end of a period which, in his view, had brought games compulsion, euphoria and organisation to the leading public schools. In this study which includes Harrow, without question a leading public school and where compulsory school games were actually abandoned in 1885, the year 1900 has been chosen to replace 1880. By then compulsion, organisation and euphoria were indeed much in evidence.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Hutchison, Dr. H.
Date of Award: 1976
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:1976-82334
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2021 08:44
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2022 09:33
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82334

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