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Pre-modern games in a modern world: A case of public festivals as rational recreation in 19th century Finland

Author(s): Lauri Keskinen

Journal: Kasvatus & Aika
ISSN 1797-2299

Volume: 6;
Issue: 4;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: pastime | exercise | sports | events | popular enlightenment | history of education | Finland

Modern sport is often seen as a record chase and something to be regarded with profound seriousness. Thus it differs significantly from pre-modern games that were accompanied by laughter, merriment, (religious) rituals and carnivalism. In Europe the shift from one form of physical activity to another took place in the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the two coexisted for a period of time, it is not possible – or even necessary – to define the exact year of the shift. However, it is possible to study the moment when pre-modern games and modern sport first crossed paths and had the possibility of becoming dominant. Focusing on this moment reveals characteristics of games and sports that otherwise would remain unnoticed. This study focused on the 19th century Finnish public festivals that aimed at educating the lower social classes whilst including pre-modern sportive elements. It was revealed that laughter and merriment could be used in a highly modern way as an instrument to further political agendas.
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