The History of Physical Culture in Ireland

by Conor Heffernan

Assistant Professor of Physical Culture and Sport Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, USA


  • Explores exercise in Ireland across educational, martial and recreational settings
  • Examines the rise of physical culture in Ireland in the late nineteenth century and traces its development across the following four decades
  • Contrasts the influence of foreign fitness entrepreneurs in Ireland such as Eugen Sandow, Thomas Inch, Eustace Miles and Mary Bagot Stack with their Irish counterparts

This book is the first to deal with physical culture in an Irish context, covering educational, martial and recreational histories. Deemed by many to be a precursor to the modern interest in health and gym cultures, physical culture was a late nineteenth and early twentieth century interest in personal health which spanned national and transnational histories. It encompassed gymnasiums, homes, classrooms, depots and military barracks. Prior to this work, physical culture’s emergence in Ireland has not received thorough academic attention. Addressing issues of gender, childhood, nationalism, and commerce, this book is unique within an Irish context in studying an Irish manifestation of a global phenomenon. Tracing four decades of Irish history, the work also examines the influence of foreign fitness entrepreneurs in Ireland and contrasts them with their Irish counterparts.

Published by Palgrave McMillan – for purchasing details click HERE

Playing Pasts is delighted to inform readers of this publication, Conor is a regular contributor to the Playing Pasts website – Click HERE for a link to his many articles