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Author: Conor Heffernan

All a Load of Pants? Posing Trunks in Male Bodybuilding Part One

At first glance posing trunks seem an odd subject for historical enquiry. Bodybuilding as a sport is almost entirely devoid of clothing leading one undoubtedly to wonder just what can be gained from studying the miserly cloth that remains. The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is quite a lot. Following a revived interest in bodily development at the dawn of the nineteenth-century, fitness promoters and competitors have sought new ways to display the superiority of their physiques, messages or training systems. Far from an isolated activity such approaches were informed by the societal messages, boundaries and ideals of their day, a...

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All a Load of Pants? Posing Trunks in Male Bodybuilding Part Two

Having discussed the precursors to bodybuilding trunks in part one of this series, this post will now delve in to the sport of bodybuilding outright. Beginning with the competitions of the early 1900s, it tracks the evolution of the posing trunks right up to the current day. A story of muscle, extreme dieting and of course, anabolic steroids. Bodybuilding as Competition Though private bodybuilding shows had been held in England, France and further afield in the early 1890s, it was not until the dawn of the twentieth century that the bodybuilding or physical culture competition as a public spectacle...

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‘Welcome to Third World Britain’: Sven-Göran Eriksson and the Death of British Football?

Sven-Göran Eriksson   Intro: One of the favoured and oftquoted lines from English historian Eric Hobsbawm is that ‘the imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people.’ Aside from encouraging a generation of sporting historians to continue their endeavours, this quote has particular salience when it comes to issues of nationhood, identity and unfortunately, exclusion. Building on Hobsbawm’s somewhat curt observation, the following post details a seminal moment in the history of English football. That is, the appointment of Sven-Göran Eriksson as England’s first foreign football manager in 2001. Coming at a time...

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From Bloom to Battle: Tracing Ireland’s Early Physical Culture Movement

On May 6th 1898, Eugen Sandow, the man whom many credit as the father of the Physical Culture movement, opened his first show in Ireland for over five years. When Sandow briefly performed in Ireland in 1893 he had been met with moderate support from pockets of Irish fans. When he came back in 1898 he was treated like the celebrity he had become. This time the public was eager to learn and the situation ripe for profit. An Opening Night Success   Empire Palace Theatre, The Freemans Journal, 02 May (1898), 6   Reports from the Irish Times...

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Weight training in English Football: An Early Experiment

In May 2016, the BBC featured a story on the science behind Leicester City’s historic premier league victory that season. Somewhat clinically, the article examined how the combination of explosive sprinting, weight training and good old-fashioned fun had coalesced into one of the greatest stories of top-flight English football. While the BBC article took the issue of weight training for granted, history shows that football has been remarkably slow in embracing the weights room. Indeed, trawling through the footballing annals suggests that it wasn’t until the 1950s that football teams truly began to experiment with strength training. Today’s post,...

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