A Study of Prize-Fighting in England, 1800 to 1870: Mapping the Changing Attitudes, Perceptions and Reception.
This project is a study of bare-knuckle prize-fighting, its place in, and influence on, nineteenth century British society and culture. It will examine what was a popular leisure activity during the early to mid-nineteenth century and had been widely enjoyed across society. In fact prize-fighting benefited from periods of elite support, however, during this time it experienced fluctuations in popularity, and an eventual decline from the mid-nineteenth century onward.
Nevertheless, despite its uneven trajectory prize-fighting was somehow able to retain considerable currency and influence beyond the ring: socially, culturally, and materially. Therefore, the primary objective is to explore what caused an emerging rational industrial society to turn away from traditional pre-industrial leisure activities, like prize-fighting, and how can this change be mapped over this period? The intention is this study will contribute to the existing historiography and be complementary to existing qualitative works, filling a long-standing gap in scholarship by centring on a quantitative analysis of the primary sources relating to prize-fighting.
This approach will add to the current literature by highlighting the conflicting forces at work (both internal and external to prize-fighting), enabling prize-fighting to be used as a lens, through which to view British culture and society at that time, in a systematic and measured way.