Sport and Physical Education in the Northern Mainland Burghs of Scotland c. 1600-1800

  • Wade Cormack

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


British sport history has become a serious branch of historical enquiry over the past three decades. Yet, many questions as regards regions, chronology, space, gender and power remain unexplored, especially in Scotland before 1800. This study examines sport and physical education in the northern mainland burghs of Scotland c. 1600-1800. It is divided into two parts.
Part One investigates the national and international contexts for, and influences on, sport and physical education in northern Scotland. It
covers the wider intellectual discourse, how the north was influenced by, and contributed to, the development of national and international sporting practise and culture. It then assesses how physical education was
taught at educational institutions in northern Scotlandand the characteristics of elite sport.
Part Two explores sport as played, experienced and regulated by ordinary people in the northern burghs. Popular sport was less influenced by an international context and was far more regionally and locally focused. P
opular and festive sport were pursued for enjoyment, were organised, gendered and were a vital release for society. The authorities also attempted to control popular sport in urban communities but this study finds
social control was not universal and the lower ranks had agency, resisting the authorities’ decrees as regards sport.
This study concludes that sport and physical education were a significant, although previously unexamined, component of social and cultural life in the northern mainland burghs, before 1800. In Part One sport and physical education changed considerably, both influencing, and adapting to, national a nd international discourses of, ‘civility’ at the beginning of the
period, an d towards the end, ‘politeness’. Moreover, the introduction of sports
clubs from 1750 signalled a change towards a higher degree of organisation.
By contrast, Part Two demonstrates popular sport practices remained relatively consistent. Thus, the thesis emphasises the need for regional studies of Scottish and British sport a nd physical education, examining their features
Date of Award2 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
SponsorsRoyal Dornoch Golf Club / UHI Development Trust
SupervisorDavid Worthington (Supervisor), Alastair Durie (Supervisor) & Elizabeth Ritchie (Supervisor)

Cite this