The Tradition of Violence: Brutality, Hooliganism and Combativity

  • Richard Holt
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


Violence in one form or another had a central place in traditional sporting activity until the later nineteenth century. In France games and spectacles which today would be classified as ‘brutal’ or ‘deviant’ were widely accepted and enjoyed for the simple excitement and catharsis they offered. In the course of the last century or so, however, there has been a strong reaction against this tradition of violence. As far as sport is concerned, deriving pleasure from watching animals fight or from the display of gratuitous violence in the course of a game is now officially considered improper, and by many barbaric. With few exceptions, civilised middle-class values condemn physically aggressive behaviour beyond the confines of play, and even those sports which legitimise aggression outlaw violence. So much for theory, what about practice? What has been the real impact of this decline in the level of socially tolerated violence on the development of sport? How much of the old remains half-hidden under the mass of new regulations, and in what respects have the various traditional forms of violence been undermined by the general transformation of leisure?


Nineteenth Century Violent Behaviour Ancien Regime European Title Professional Boxing 
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Copyright information

© Richard Holt 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Holt
    • 1
  1. 1.University of StirlingUK

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