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Page history last edited by E.Wickens@warwick.ac.uk 6 years, 5 months ago



'Modern Manhood; or, the Art and Practice of English Boxing, including the History of the Science of Natural Defence; and Memoirs of the most celebrated Practitioners of that Manly Exercise'

(Lemoine 2).


Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as the 'action of fighting with fists, now usually applied to a sporting encounter in which the hands are covered with well padded leather gloves,' the practice of boxing significantly increased in popularity during the eighteenth century. However, fist-fighting at this time was only one form of prize-fighting, and it was associated with other one-on-one sporting encounters which involved the use of weapons, including the backsword, cudgel and threshing flail.



Figure 1 - This chart depicts the increasing frequency of the term 'boxing' in historical texts between 1700-1800. One reason for this may be because boxing became the more popular form of prize-fighting, and by the middle of the century the practice was regulated by formal rules which were adopted by professional fighters who had high profile statuses within society. In staged matches, weapons were overlooked in favour of the 'artful' (Egan 27) and 'scientific' (Egan 43) uses of the fists.   


Fighting as a sporting competition dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, as seen in the funeral games in Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid. Men seeking to display their physical prowess and prove their honour is as crucial to the eighteenth century boxing scene as it was then, and many of the boxers I will discuss celebrate a sporting history which dates back to the classical era. However, others were keen to distinguish boxing as a national sport which made Englishmen 'renowned, terrific and triumphant' (Egan 3). One of the most surprising discoveries was women's involvement in prize-fighting, not only as spectators, but more importantly as professional sportswomen. Women challenge the gendered discourse of boxing which frequently omits their talent and popularity, both inside the amphitheatres for paying spectators and outside on the streets.


In the eighteenth century, physical combat was predominately a lower class activity, arising either as a means to settle a dispute or to discern who the better fighter was. For the lower classes throughout the century, boxing was a form of unregulated recreation on which bets could be placed, and it was not until the practice became increasingly regulated that the upper classes, including nobility, developed a keen interest in the sport. Boxing became increasingly commercialised, and its popularity attracted thousands of paying spectators. The sport additionally profited from the gambling craze disseminating through the middle classes, as well as noble patronage. Spanning the class and gender divide, boxing appealed to many as an entertaining, profitable spectacle. However, even after its regulation, boxing was still a sport which was considerably more violent than it is today, and fatalities were not a surprise for the public. The brutality of the fights was just one of the reasons why the sport was so controversial, and there was vehement opposition concerning its religious, moral and legal status. Boxing was explored by many poets, novelists and satirists; their work offering interesting insights into how boxing was perceived at this time.    




Printing Press


In keeping with the mercantile nature of eighteenth century society, certain sports, including boxing, became commercialised. It would be impossible to explore this without considering the expansion of the printing press and the prevalence and extended distribution of Newspapers, which allowed an increasingly diverse readership to engage with printed material. Newspaper advertisements, which 'accounted for more than half the content of eighteenth-century newspapers' (Shoemaker 256), were essential to the success of the sport as they promoted upcoming matches. These advertisements included the written formal challenge posed by one fighter and the response from their opponent, the location and time of the event and other noteworthy facts such as the value of the prize for the winner. The Daily Advertiser included places where tickets could be bought, and for one particular match these included St. James Market and a coffee house in Grosvenor Square. Advertisements were to a great extent responsible for increasing the popularity of matches as well as the profiles of renowned prize-fighters. As is to be expected, newspapers profited from their readers heightened interest in the sport. In January 1788 The Times unambiguously opposed boxing, calling it an 'abominable custom [and] a vulgar exercise,' and yet the fact they still printed details about matches emphasises the importance of boxing to the printing industry. 


Its popularity also helped develop sports reportage as it is known today. Pierce Egan, who is often hailed as the father of sports journalism, published Boxiana; Or, Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism; from the Days of the renowned Broughton and Slack to the Heroes of the Present Milling Era! (Boxiana) in 1812. This collection of reports offers detailed descriptions about the matches which took place throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As an eyewitness to many of them, Egan’s work has been critical for discovering who the prize-fighters were, their different techniques, and how matches were perceived by the crowds. For readers in the early nineteenth century who could not attend matches, Egan’s reports captured the excitement of the events; such as his vivid description of a fight in which one man ‘contested the battle with great firmness, and dealt out some most tremendous blows, until the close of the seventeenth round, wherein he received a desperate hit in the stomach…that made him vomit great quantities of blood’ (128-9). Whether it is wholly faithful to the truth or not, Egan's graphic style of writing was popular and five volumes of Boxiana were consequently published. Other forms of print included manuals such as The Modern Art of Boxing, as practiced by Mendoza, Humphreys, Ryan, Ward, Watson, Johnson, and other eminent Pugilists, which was published in 1789 for six pence, and sold to readers wanting to learn boxing techniques.



Figure 2 - The title page of a ninety-nine page manual published in 1788 by an 'Amateur of Eminence' and sold for two shillings. The claim that ‘any person may be an entire master of the science in a few days’ reveals the high value placed on being able to box proficiently in the eighteenth century.


Performers, Proposals and Profit


James Figg was the first prize-fighter who sought to capitalise on the growing interest in fighting as sport by opening his own amphitheatre to stage matches, and offering lessons in the 'Noble Science of Defence.' The Daily Post printed an advertisement for a fight in 'Mr. Figg's New Amphitheatre' in October 1725, and the high frequency of announcements printed after this indicate the success of his entrepreneurial venture. Although Figg was primarily a master of weaponry, as seen by the prevalence of swords and the quarterstaff depicted in figure two, he did fight with his fists and utilise his various skills to teach. Many male prize fighters who fought using weapons in the early eighteenth century praised his instruction; in 1732 in the Daily Post William Gill referred to himself as a 'late scholar to that great Master, Mr James Figg.'  



Figure 3 - This trade-card for Figg was originally attributed to William Hogarth but is now believed to have been forged circa 1790. Despite this, the image is still useful as it informs us that professional prize-fighters were targeting upper class men, who had the means to take lessons, to be their students. The scene depicted is indicative of the design of amphitheatres for boxing, with space for the audience to stand around the raised platform as well as a gallery.


Whilst spectators occupied different social statuses, Figg's amphitheatre signals the beginning of a succession of theatres constructed to ensure there was a distinct class division. By calling his venue an amphitheatre, Figg initiates a tradition in which eighteenth century boxers honour the sporting world of ancient Greece and Rome. James Stokes was a prize-fighter who opened his own amphitheatre, and an advertisement for a match to take place there in 1731 advises that 'gentlemen are desired to come early, to seat themselves in the further part of the Gallery, for on this occasion a full house is expected.' Additionally, one spectator at Stoke's theatre in 1727 lost his life attempting to climb up into the gallery when he was kicked down by a man seated there (Old Bailey). It is extremely likely that the gallery was designed for men of a certain status.


Crucially, the advent of open spaces for matches to be held introduced paying spectators to the sport for the first time. Prices for individual tickets recalled in Egan's Boxiana, ranged from half a guinea to a guinea and a half, and the entrance money was divided between the prize fighters according to number five of John Broughton's rules listed below. 'The father of boxing' (Egan 58) Broughton, developed a reputation as a great fighter, but similarly to the men discussed thus far wanted to significantly profit from the sport. As the Duke of Cumberland was Broughton's patron, he understood the financial necessity for 'noblemen and gentlemen' (Broughton 3) to enjoy the spectacle of boxing, and so appealed to them directly in his four page successful proposal to build his own amphitheatre. By asking for their 'generous contributions,' (3)the document reveals how boxing had transitioned into a practice which appealed to people of all classes. Broughton wrote that British boxing lacked an 'elegant' environment for matches to be staged and that more work was needed to ensure that there was no longer 'present indiscrimination there between persons of the first rank and condition, and those of the meaner and lower class.' In doing so, he consolidates the steps taken by his prize-fighting predecessors to develop boxing as a practice premised on distinct class divisions. Point number two of his proposition underlines this:


'-That this building shall be so contriv'd as to entirely prevent the Gentry's being incommoded by the populace; and as servants will be admitted to keep places, the inconvenience of attendance or disappointment will be avoided.'
A further commercialising plan by Broughton was to charge the boxing champions to fight in his amphitheatre located in Oxford Road; the cost to be decided 'either by agreement between the parties, or left to the decision of the gentlemen present' (3). This did not deter boxers from fighting there, and it soon became the most popular public arena for staging matches. The respect Broughton earned as a fighter helped his amphitheatre achieve the same level of success. When the hero of Edward Philip's The Adventures of a Black Coat approaches a manager of a theatre and brazenly asks what his starting salary would be, given that his merit and proportion are equal to the current actor's, the manager sarcastically says '[w]hy Sir, you have mistaken the house, Mr. Broughton lives in the Hay-market, where, if you will give yourself the trouble to call upon him, you may perhaps meet with encouragement on his amphitheatre' (117). This not only suggests that male competitiveness was synonymous with boxing, but reveals that Broughton and his amphitheatre were well known in London.  



Figure 4 - The title page of Broughton's proposal dated January 1 1742-3.  


Broughton also sought to develop boxing by introducing rules, which were published in 1743, and were the first steps ever taken to regulate the sport:


  1. That a square of a yard be chalked in the middle of the stage; and every fresh set-to after a fall, or being parted from the rails, each second is to bring his man to the side of the square, and place him opposite to the other, and till they are fairly set to at the lines, it shall not be lawful for the one to strike the other.
  2. That, in order to prevent any disputes, the time a man lies after a fall, if the second does not bring his man to the side of the square, within the space of half a minute, he shall be deemed a beaten man.
  3. That in every main battle, no person whatever shall be upon the stage, except the principles and their seconds; the same rule to be observed in by-battles, except that in the latter, Mr. Broughton is allowed to be upon the stage to keep decorum, and to assist gentlemen in getting to their places; provided always he does not interfere in the battle; and who ever pretends to infringe these rules, to be turned immediately out of the house. Everybody is to quit the stage as soon as the champions are stripped, before they set-to.
  4. That no champion be deemed beaten, unless he fails coming up to the line in the limited time; or, that his own second declares him beaten. No second is to be allowed to ask his man's adversary any questions, or advise him to give out.
  5. That in by-battles, the winning man to have two thirds of the money given, which shall be publicly divided upon the stage, not withstanding any private agreements to the contrary.
  6. That, to prevent disputes, in every main battle, the principles shall, on the coming on the stage, choose from among the gentlemen present, two umpires, who shall absolutely decide all disputes that may arise about the battle; and if the two umpires cannot agree, the said umpires to choose a third, who is to determine it.
  7. That no person is to hit his adversary when he is down, or seize him by the ham, the breeches, or any part below the waist: a man on his knees to be reckoned down.  


The boxer developed seven rules, including how matches should begin and end, how the men in the ring should conduct themselves, that the winner is to receive two thirds of the prize money and that a man is not to be hit when on the ground. Egan notes how '[p]revious to the days of Broughton it was downright slaughtering' (16), and whilst boxing was still dangerous after 1743, reports such as the one of a boxer breaking their collar bone after being pushed off the stage, do not surface. The rules indicate Broughton's desire to reduce the physical risks to boxers, an aspiration which is emphasised by his introduction of mufflers (the first boxing gloves) which were designed to 'secure [boxers] from the inconveniency of black eyes, broken jaws and bloody noses' (Broughton 4). Additionally, by deeming a man to be 'beaten' if he does not rise within thirty seconds, Broughton attempts to prevent fights becoming too bloody and brutal, and consequently repelling the noblemen he wishes to attract. Broughton's rules also work to 'prevent any disputes' between those who gambled on a fight. This was important because gambling and boxing were inextricable in the eighteenth century. Ironically, many matches which arose to resolve altercations, caused further arguments between the gambling spectators. The fairness of the fight was a frequent cause of dispute, as stated by the London Daily Post which describes the aftermath of a fight in 1738: '[w]hen the [spectators] seeing their man like to be worsted, broke in and interrupted the battle: upon which a general skirmish ensued about the stakes and by-betts.' Betting was the main reason many people watched matches, including the wealthy spectators who were at the forefront of Broughton endeavours. Therefore it seems appropriate that a set of boxing rules would include an attempt to regulate that aspect of the sport.


 Figure 5 -  This anonymous engraving entitled View of the battle between Johnson and Perrins at Banbury was published circa 1789, and depicts a fight between Tom Johnson and Isaac Perrins on October 22nd of the same year. It's useful for visualising the changes Broughton made to boxing, as the two men fight in an enclosed square with their seconds behind them and two umpires to the left hand side. Additionally, there are two bottle-holders who were present to keep the fighters hydrated. The boxers captivated thousands of spectators for, as Egan reports, an hour and a quarter with sixty-rounds of fighting.


Boxing as a Profession


The fact that gentlemen were learning how to box should not undermine the reality that prize-fighters were men with lower social statuses who fought to earn money. Some of these fighters were butchers, bakers, brewers and watermen, who originally boxed on the streets for their own enjoyment. They were often spotted for their talents and patronised by wealthy men who organised their matches, covered any fees and sometimes provided the prize money. The reoccurrence of particular boxers who were regularly wining money on stage, supports the fact that eighteenth century society was accommodating boxing as a profession. Tom Johnson reportedly had earnings of £5000 from his boxing career, which is the equivalent of £280,150 in monetary terms today (Egan 6). Considerable sums of money could be won from winning single matches too, as a report in The York Chronicle, And Weekly Advertiser in 1773 states that a butcher and a dyer fought in front of thousands of spectators for 160 guineas, the equivalent of £10,700 today. It is evident that becoming a professional boxer had very attractive financial incentives.


The incredibly detailed boxing manuals which were in circulation towards the end of the century, were targeted at middle and upper class men. However, as they were cheaper than boxing lessons it is arguable that they reached a more diverse audience than the authors envisaged. In The Complete Art of Boxing which is featured in figure two, it is stated that 'the insults of inferiors would always be guarded against, if a knowledge of this art was more generally understood by persons in genteel life' (4). However, the writer proceeds to celebrate and admire the 'actual professional talents' (v) of boxers who were of lower social classes. For example, Tom Johnson was a corn porter by trade but referred to as one of 'the eminent [boxing] professors' noted on the title page.


The Complete Art of Boxing offers instructions on the best positions and postures to adopt in different competitive scenarios. In addition to the 'science' (16) of boxing, it reveals other aspects which were believed to improve a fighter's performance on stage. The writer advises that one spend ten to fourteen days preparing for a match, in which warm baths should be taken in the evening to wash the feet, legs and the small of the thighs, followed by washing the loins, face, hands and arms in cold water. In dietary terms, bread, butter and salt were inadvisable, as were spirits, beer and ale. Red wine was recommended when mingled with water, although no more than a mulled pint before dinner and two glasses after. Other notable dietary advice includes a rusk (plain or sweet bread which has been baked twice) and chocolate early in the evening. An aspiring boxer must sleep at exactly nine o'clock and rise at five, preferably listening to martial music before bed. The sale of a manual which included a section dedicated to detailing a day in the life of a boxer, emphasises how boxing was recognised as a profession. Furthermore, manuals introduce the concept of professional sportspeople training and looking after their most valuable asset: the body. It must be noted that to follow this particular recommended diet and routine fully requires one to be upper class, as wine and chocolate were expensive luxury items. However, even the author appears to recognise this as they write that 'all who wish to be eminent in the profession, may adopt as much of the method of preparation as they may judge necessary' (17).


Women in the Ring


Working Women


Given that the 2012 London Olympic Games offered women the chance to compete at the quadrennial event for the first time, one may not think that women started fighting in a professional capacity in 1722. Boxing was not simply a 'manly exercise' (Lemoine 2), and women in the first half of the century were literally fighting alongside their male counterparts in mixed double pairs. Ostensibly differing very little from the matches that took place between men, women with low social statuses also fought each other in the established amphitheatres in front of paying spectators. The London Journal recalls what is believed to be the first female prize-fight in June 1722:                                 



Figure 6 - This excerpt from the London Journal reprints the written exchange between two boxers on June 23rd 1722.


Although boxers such as Broughton had no desire to teach women, Elizabeth Wilkinson (the later Mrs Stokes) did teach others herself. The self proclaimed 'invincible city championess' fought using weapons too, and an advertisement in the Weekly Journal for a match featuring Stokes in 1728 includes the following note: '[t]wo of Mrs Stoke's scholars are to fight fix bouts at quarter-staff.' Despite not being able to take lessons as easily as men, women's matches were evidently still both entertaining and skilful. They were not an infrequent occurrence either, as a report in the London Journal in 1723 states how 'scare a week passes but we have a boxing match at the Bear Garden between women.' Hockley in the Hole was an area of central London where the lower classes would go to watch or participate in bear-baiting, bull-baiting, sword fighting and boxing. Mrs Peachum in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera tells Filch he 'should go to Hockley in the Hole, and to Marybone child, to learn valor. These are the schools that have bred so many brave men,' and for her, brutal and dangerous sports force men to learn courage. Interestingly, the word valour also appears in the newspaper article, revealing how boxing allowed women to display qualities which were traditionally reserved for men, and as a result challenge their passive role within society.  


An advertisement in the Daily Journal for a prize fight between Mary Barker and Elizabeth Stokes on August 26th 1728 at Mr Stoke's amphitheatre, suggests that women were attempting to challenge the gender inequality in boxing, both on and off the stage. The end of the advertisement states that '[a]ttendance will be given at two, and the championess's mount between four and five. There will be a gallery on purpose for women.' Given that women were not encouraged to attend professional matches, this specific gallery may have been provided to attract upper class women who would not want to watch from the pit below. Women also confronted the gendered discourse of boxing, as the advertisements featured below exemplify.




 Figures 7 and 8 - These two images of texts are taken from newspaper advertisements, and contain the written challenges made by prize fighters. Figure seven is from the Daily Journal on October 7th 1728 and figure eight is from the Weekly Journal on May 24th 1729. The challenges reflect the matches themselves, as the prize fighters assert their superiority through their language. For the fighters, surpassing the prospect of winning a significant sum of money is maintaining ones reputation, and as figure eight reveals, to refuse a fight would guarantee one the title of a 'faint-hearted coward.' This insult is made by Charles Wright and Mary Waller, a mixed double pair competing against Mr and Mrs Stokes. This type of match was more common in the first half of the century when prize fighting using weapons was more popular. By fighting alongside the men on stage, Waller and Stokes display the high quality of their own skills in the 'noble science of defence.' The language used by Field and Stokes in figure seven is the same as the language used in advertisements concerning men boxers; both women adopt confident tones and each declare that they will be deemed the 'championess' of the ring. It is evident that women wanted to prove their honour to the same extent as they wanted to win the prize money. This record reveals how experienced women boxers were, and Stokes' recollection of a match she fought six years ago, emphasises the importance for boxers to maintain a good reputation.


Clothes and Criticism   



Figure 9 -  This extract is taken from an advertisement for a match between Stokes and Mary Welch in the British Gazetteer on 1st October 1726. Stokes was the most revered female prize fighter at the time, and judging by newspaper advertisements also fought the most. Apart from the shorter length of Petticoat, women fought wearing clothes which were not dissimilar to their daily attire. In comparison, men fought wearing 'white drawers, thread stockings and pumps' (British Gazetteer July 1727).


Women fought in unregulated street matches outside of the professional world of boxing too. These were often more violent, however their brutality was overlooked by spectators who were engrossed in the entertainment. Memoirist William Hickey recalls an evening he spent in a tavern in Drury Lane in 1768 watching two women box, and his shock contrasts to the onlookers who are not surprised by the fact women are fighting, or the violent nature in which they are doing so. It is interesting that the women's clothes have been stripped off in the fight, as this suggests the restrictiveness of the clothes professional female prize fighters wore. Hickey writes:


'the whole room was in an uproar, men and women promiscuously mounted upon chairs, tables, and benches, in order to see a sort of general conflict carried on upon the floor. Two she devils, for they scarce had a human appearance, were engaged in a scratching and boxing match, their faces entirely covered with blood, bosoms bare, and the clothes nearly torn from their bodies. For several minutes not a creature interfered between them, or seemed to care a straw what mischief they might do to each other, and the contest went on with unabated fury' (82).   



Figure 10 - This print by John Collet is called The Female Bruisers and was engraved in 1770. It depicts a market scene in which two women are in the middle of a fight; one has been knocked down and the other is engaged in a combative stance. The standing upper class woman has removed her cloak and hand muffler, and it is likely her hat was knocked off during the fight. The setting implies the women had an altercation concerning market goods which developed into a physical fight. It is interesting to note how street fights attracted the attention of the public and how spectators urged the boxers on, as women and men watch intently, some with their hands clasped in eager anticipation. However, Collet is satirising women who box by presenting an upper class lady fighting and winning a match, as well as including three men who are having to assist the women. One is feeding the woman in a mocking imitation of the bottle holders who were present in professional matches, another is helping the fallen woman up, and a third is restraining the extravagantly dressed lady to the right of the image. Women are presented as being unable to control themselves, consequently depending on the men to assist them.




Figures 11 and 12 - These satirical prints published in 1792 by Thomas Rowlandson are more revealing when juxtaposed. Six Stages of Mending a Face belongs to a plethora of eighteenth century satire which mocks women who deceptively alter their appearance. This is depicted by the old woman who transforms herself into a beautiful, seemingly younger lady by covering herself with make up, a wig and false teeth. For more information on Six Stages of Mending a Face, read the discussion of this in relation to False TeethSix Stages of Marring a Face depicts a physically strong healthy man in a boxing stance, who similarly undergoes a process of transformation. However, his face is destroyed by his opponents punches, contrasting to the construction of the woman's face. Looking at the prints together suggests Rowlandson's critique of a society which demands that men must prove themselves through brutal displays of bodily strength and that women must look a certain, artificial way to be considered beautiful. It is also interesting to consider how starkly women's presence in the ring contrasts with the importance society places on how women look.  


Women boxers were not sponsored by wealthy nobility, or discussed critically to the same extent as their male peers. For example, Egan's four hundred and eighty four page Boxiana dedicates half a page to female pugilists. Furthermore, it appears that the public's interest in professional female fighters declined in the second half of the century, and women's involvement in the sport was confined to spectating. When boxing champion According to Egan, when Daniel Mendoza speaks about public displays of boxing in 1791, he states that they will be 'conducted with the upmost propriety and decorum, that the female part of the creation might attend, without their feelings being infringed upon, or their experiencing any unpleasant sensations' (9). This ignores women's participation in prize fighting during a period which helped boxing evolve into the sport it is at the end of the century, in favour of using women's seemingly fragile disposition to sell boxing as a 'neat and elegant' (Egan 9) practice.       


Backlash: Criticism and the Law


Boxing attracted fierce criticism throughout the eighteenth century, and is a site of moral, religious and economic contention.   




Boxers risked serious injury or death when they participated in matches both on and off the stage. Records from the Old Bailey reveal how street fights frequently resulted in a boxer's death, as was the case in June 1734 when two men agreed to fight. The prisoner 'struck the deceas'd on the temples which made him stagger, and as he was falling the prisoner kick'd him on the breast and the groin...this was on the Wednesday and he dyed on the Saturday following.' As was typical in cases like this, the prisoner was charged with manslaughter. Given this, the criticism which appears in a pamphlet in 1715, entitled A Few Observations upon the Fighting for Prizes in the Bear Gardens is seemingly as pertinent decades later. The author cites Sir William Hope from his book A New Short and Easy Method of Fencing in which he offers his new technique to enhance the 'art' (8) of fencing. Hope contrasts this to the 'butcherly...barbarous and inhuman' (15) practice of boxing which he 'altogether disapproves' (15) of. The safety of boxers is his paramount concern, and for Hope the most distressing aspect is prize fighters being 'carry'd off the stage, without any appearance of life' (15). It is important to remember that this pamphlet was produced before steps were taken to regulate boxing, during a period when the sport was very violent, not only in comparison to today, but to the second half of the century. 


Barry Edward develops this line of criticism further in a letter he addresses to 'Kings, Lords and Commons.' Sharing similar sentiments to Hope regarding the savageness of boxing, he argues that 'these spectacles afford no entertainment to the warrior' (29). By referring to boxing as a spectacle, Barry raises serious questions concerning why such a 'brutal fashion' (8) is so visually captivating. However, his reasoning that lesser minds 'crowd to the field of carnage, and like leeches, thrive on the blood that is spilt' (30), whereas men of refinement, scholars and gentlemen are innocent bystanders, is problematic. Boxing appealed to men and women of all social statuses who collectively watched blood being shed as a form of entertainment.  



Figure 13 - This is The Second Stage of Cruelty from William Hogarth's The Four Stages of Cruelty, dated 1751Hogarth's series of prints follow Tom Nero, who, along with the rest of society, tortures animals for his own perverse amusement. It is implied that Nero's subsequent decision to become a thief and a murderer stemmed from a society which encouraged acts of cruelty. In this image an advertisement pinned to the building on the left hand side reads: 'At Broughton's Amphitheatre: George Field and James Taylor.' Its inclusion in this scene suggests that boxing was seen as an unnecessarily cruel practice. One can deduce that Hogarth considered the sport to be responsible for encouraging violence, which is perpetuated in an uncontrollable manner. It is interesting to contrast how women are lightly mocked in The Female Bruisers for a lack of self control, whereas Hogarth's images are dominated by men who, with tragic consequences, cannot control their desires to attack others.     




Religious arguments against the practice of boxing targeted Sabbath-breaking, as well as its violent nature. As has been identified, the Daily Universal Register (now The Times) despised prize fighting. However, this report on 8th August 1786 expresses specific outrage that matches were held on a Sunday:


'Sunday morning upwards of 4000 vagabonds were assembled in St. George's Field for the purpose of being present at the decision of a pitched battle for ten guineas. This mode of employing the Sunday morning is, we understand, a constant practice in these fields, to the great disgrace of morality, humanity and the Surrey magistrates.'


In the 1780s, 'the national campaign for moral reform resumed' (Langford 128) with 'persecutions of offences such as drunkenness, prostitution, gaming, and profanation of the Sabbath' (Langford 128). This desire to morally cleanse society extended to opposing certain sports, particularly boxing because of its violent often savage nature. The fact that boxing was attracting thousands of spectators, and was doing so on the Sabbath day, was concerning for those seeking to stop pastimes which they felt to be immoral. Reverend Barry condemns boxing for causing physical damage to the body, and in his letter he asks what is more 'degrading' (30) than two boxers 'defacing the image with which the Almighty favoured them' (30). Additionally, Barry's argument that 'boxing-matches encourage idleness - the fruitful root of every vice' (31), supports the campaign for moral reformation as it seeks to prevent people partaking in the immoral act of passively watching men box.   




Boxing was indebted to the popularity of gambling, however this raised questions regarding the honesty of the competitors and their patrons. There is little evidence of individual cases of corruption, although the work of certain authors and artists imply that boxing was not always a just sport. An anonymous author of The Bruiser, or, an Inquiry into the Pretensions of Modern Manhood: In a Letter to a Young Gentleman in 1752, argues that 'boxing is scare ever, what it pretends to be, a fair trial of manhood, on account of the apparent disparity in height and strength, between particular men' (33). In the eighteenth century boxers were not matched according to their weight as they are today. Patrons often organised matches, which allowed them to pair up fighters who were unsuitably matched. This granted the upper classes a degree of power to gauge the outcome of matches and place their bets accordingly.



Figure 14 - The Bruiser Bruisd; Or, the Knowing Ones Taken-in by an unknown artist in 1750, depicts an interesting boxing match between John Broughton and Jack Slack from the same year. Both Egan and the reports from newspapers at the time note how Broughton feared Slack would not turn up to fight, and so offered him ten guineas 'not to break his engagement' (Egan 57). It is reported that Broughton was the superior boxer at the beginning of the fight and that the odds were ten to one in his favour. However, confidence was short-lived as Slack 'put in a desperate hit between Broughton's eyes, which immediately closed them up' (Egan 58). The blood pouring from the left eye of Broughton, the boxer on the left, is indicative of this wound. The faces of the audience in the amphitheatre reflect the disbelief that the British Champion had been beaten by Slack in just fourteen minutes (Egan 58). This unlikely result sparked rumours that the match was fixed, although there does not appear to be any evidence to confirm this. The spectator depicted directly behind Broughton in a state of disbelief is possibly the Duke of Cumberland, Broughton's patron who 'lost several thousand' (Egan 58) on a bet. Gentleman on both sides of the gallery are pictured giving money to men by their sides, having lost their bets too. The title implies that the 'knowing' spectators were 'taken in' by Broughton, however an attempt to incriminate Broughton by emphasising his larger frame in comparison to Slack, is overshadowed by the emphasis placed generally on the exchange of money. Money is presented as underpinning the sport; inviting the viewer to question the honesty of professional boxing. It is possible that the prospect of profiting was an incentive for boxers and patrons to conspire and fool others.   


A speech made by William Vasey in 1824, reflects on the moral implications of pugilism. He delivers a scathing critique of the corruption of boxing, holding '[g]amesters' (13) responsible for dishonourable behaviour and insisting that 'the heroes of the Ring have no more interference with the terms of the contest than two dogs could have which were about to destroy each other for the gratification of their masters' (13). This contrasts to the artist of The Bruiser Bruisd; Or, the Knowing Ones Taken-in, who questions Broughton's professionalism. The boxers for Vasey are innocent of corruption, whereas the 'gentry' (13) dishonourably 'consult and agree upon the...conditions of fighting' (13). Vasey interweaves this line of criticism with that of the inhumaneness of boxing, as he refers to pugilists as dogs who are controlled by their masters. These masters reportedly:


'...make their wagers upon the issue of the match; and, in doing this, they take particular care to...puff in servile and lying newspapers the state and power of one of the combatants, in order to stimulate the inequality of betting. If, by some unforeseen occurrence, they find themselves outwitted, they then resolve that the opposite man shall lose the fight...They corrupt his second, upon whose conduct it frequently happens that the success of the fighter depends; and on other occasions they proceed directly to the man himself and offer him a trifling sum of money to lose the battle, which he accepts with great readiness and satisfaction' (13).


The corrupt and manipulative ways in which the gamesters operate here is key. However, if their arrangements do not succeed Vasey implies that boxers can be tempted into dishonesty by financial incentives in order for the patrons to still profit. Regardless of the extent to which boxers themselves are held accountable, underlying these texts and images is a serious question regarding the honesty of boxing as a sport.      


The Law


Boxing was a sport which challenged the legal system. The practice was not stated specifically under the law, but towards the end of the eighteenth century magistrates became increasingly interested in preventing matches from taking place. Ironically, their intervention correlates with a surge in popularity of boxing in the last two decades of the century, which is visible in figure one. This rise also suggests that the moral and religious arguments to eradicate boxing were not compelling enough to initiate change, as the sport was fully embedded within society in 1800. The fact that legal intervention did not deter boxing either, signifies the difficulty in preventing a sport which was so popular from occurring. The main reason boxing matches were challenged by the law is apparent in Egan's description of a fight arranged in 1806. Egan reports how '[i]n all probability [Maddox] would have proved the conqueror, had it not been for the intrusion of the military, and a magistrate desiring them to desist from breaking the peace - the parties in compliance with the laws, retired' (211). This charge was used by legal authorities on the basis that boxing matches enticed large crowds, in which fights would frequently occur between the spectators and thefts would take place by opportunistic criminals who exploited the occasion.    



Figure 15 - The Prize Fight by Thomas Rowlandson was published in 1787. This image is fascinating because it contrasts to the other visual representations of boxing explored during this project. The boxers themselves usually dominate the scene and are situated by the artist in the forefront of the image. Here, Rowlandson diminishes the boxers and the stage, switching the viewer's focus onto the crowd surrounding them. This is in keeping with the accusation that boxing unsettled the natural order of society through the presence of thousands of spectators. Violence is literally presented as the foundation upon which boxing stands, as many spectators are in perilous situations having been pushed over and trampled on; the safety of the crowd is of paramount concern to the artist. The rural location of this match suggests that it originally faced the same fate as a fight Egan describes. He writes that in 1803 a 'contest was to have been decided at Newmarket; but the magistrates interfering, [the boxers] travelled out of the country, and halted at a spot of ground, and made a ring, about half a mile beyond Linton, and fifteen from Newmarket' (138). The abundance of advertisements allowed magistrates to easily discern where and when fights were taking place, however noble patronage granted certain matches protection from persecution and there was consequently an increase in the number of matches held on private estates. However, there were alternative ways for fights to proceed in spite of the law; for example, by moving to a location at a considerable distance from the local magistrates, or to an area in with magistrates were less keen to intervene. It is possible to assume that this was the case in The Prize Fight.  


The level of interest magistrates took in preventing or dissolving matches depended on the extent to which their local authority wanted them to, and ultimately arose from the ambiguous legal status of boxing. This discrepancy is adopted in a letter written to The Times in 1789 which criticises the inconsistent criminalisation of boxing, which allowed a dangerous and immoral practice to prosper. In doing so, boxing undermined the authority of the law. The writer's argument that 'the incapacity of some magistrates, and the more culpable neglect of others, have encouraged a perseverance that has been fatal in some instances, and disgraceful in all,' supports the rise in popularity of boxing in the last two decades of the century.    



Figure 16 - This excerpt from Egan's Boxiana (180-1) is a notice written by the Marquis of Buckingham in the County Chronicle in reaction to a match which was to take place in 1807. Although 'the law' was in some cases upheld with conviction, when read with hindsight this notice emphasises the futility of inconsistent legal enforcements, as this match still took place several miles away from the original location.




The contentious nature of boxing is reflected in the literature of the eighteenth century. These texts offer an awareness of how boxing was utilised as a sport to define the nation, as Britain celebrated the ideals of masculinity and honour which are entrenched within the practice of fist fighting. Consequently, many writers who depict women boxers do so mockingly, and often contrast these women to men boxers who fight heroically. In contrast to the literature which situates boxing as a site of national pride, satirists frequently ridicule fist fighting as a sport, presenting it as an immoral and savage practice. Furthermore, the texts I have explored support a paradox previously identified in this project; boxing as a practice which dissolves traditional class divisions whilst upholding social segregation.


Tom Jones (1749)


The eponymous hero Tom Jones is presented by Henry Fielding as a very talented boxer and one who values boxing as a sport which is indicative of courage, fair-play and civilisation:     


'He cannot suppress a pious wish, that all quarrels were to be decided by those weapons only with which Nature, knowing what is proper for us, hath supplied us…then would war, the pastime of monarchs, be almost inoffensive, and battles between great armies be fought at the particular desire of several ladies of quality; who, together with the kings themselves, might be actual spectators of the conflict. Then might the field be this moment well strewed with human carcasses, and the next, the dead men, or infinitely the greatest part of them, might get up.'


However, Fielding contrasts this to a match between two female characters:   


 'But if no other will oppose her, I myself and Joan Top here will have the honour of the victory. Having thus said, she flew at Molly Seagrim...laying hold of their hair of Molly with her left hand, she attacked her so furiously in the face with the right, that the blood soon began to trickle from her nose' (114).


Molly and Goody are two lower class female characters who are mocked for engaging in a petty, hair-pulling match from which they need to be saved by the hero Tom Jones. Fielding writes that 'Molly may have given her a fatal blow, had not the lucky arrival of Tom Jones at this instant put an immediate end to the bloody scene' (114). 




Paul Whitehead's mock-epic poem The Gymnasiad: or, Boxing-Match. An Epic Poem. With the Prolegomena of Scriblerus Tertius, and Notes Variorum (The Gymnasiad) was published in 1744. It is humorously dedicated to Broughton and comments on a particular match he fought with George Stevenson in 1741.   




Figure 17 - The title page and first page of Paul Whitehead's 1744 poem The Gymnasiad.


The death of Stevenson in the final book of the poem is a tragic end. The boxer is described as having 'mash'd teeth and clotted blood [which] came issuing from his mouth' (30), and yet Broughton, who delivered the 'fatal blow' (30), is depicted as a man enticed by financial gain and 'lur'd by the lustre of the golden prize' (31)


A Wife to be Lett (1724)


In Eliza Haywood's comedy A Wife to be Lett, Widow Stately has just found out that her husband is not the aristocratic gentlemen she thought he was, but a footman in disguise:



     'Villian! Rogue! I'll tear you to pieces.'


     'Hold, hold, good Lady, Passion -- have mercy on my clothes, for they are none of my own.' 


     'Patience, madam, patience! Boxing does not become a woman of quality.' 



Haywood exploits the comic potential of Stately attacking her husband, by contrasting her threat to 'tear [him] to pieces' with Gaylove's mention of boxing. Haywood mocks Stately for believing she could successfully fight, and this is emphasised by Shamble's sarcastic reaction. Furthermore, Gaylove uses the word boxing to mock her planned fighting technique which consists of tearing Shamble's clothes. This contrasts to the present interest of professional boxers in developing the sport into a science. Shamble and Gaylove both stress Stately's social status in this passage, and Gaylove specifically states that boxing is not suitable for a 'woman of quality' (85). The Female Bruisers entered into this debate too, suggesting that, for some, the only notion more unnatural than women boxing, was upper class women doing so.      


Ennui (1809)


The narrator of Maria Edgeworth's fictional memoir Ennui acts as an interesting challenge to many of Fielding's notions about boxing; offering a new insight into how boxing was perceived. The narrator's initial response to a boxing match explores aspects of boxing which are familiar, including the notion of fist fighting as a spectacle and one associated with class divides:   


'My attention was accidentally roused by the sight of a boxing match. My feelings were so much excited, and the excitation was so delightful, that I was now in danger of becoming an amateur of the pugilistic art. It did not occur to me, that it was beneath the dignity of a British nobleman, to learn the vulgar terms of the boxing trade. I soon began to talk very knowingly of first rate bruisers, game men, and pleasing fighters; making play - beating a man under the ropes - sparring - rallying - sawing - and chopping' (181-2).


However, in contrast to Fielding who celebrates boxing as a sport of national pride, Edgeworth suggests the opposite. Whereas Fielding elevates boxing as a sign of British civilisation, the critical 'foreigner' here describes boxing as the reason why Britain is an uncivilised nation. Being able to withstand physical blows as a boxer is for Edgeworth part of the problem of this sport:


'I was unexpectedly seized with a fit of national shame, on hearing a foreigner of rank and reputation express astonishment at our taste for these savage spectacles. It was in vain that I repeated the arguments of some of the parliamentary panegyrists of boxing and bull-baiting; and asserted, that these diversions render a people hardy and courageous. My opponent replied, that he did not perceive the necessary connexion between cruelty and courage; that he did not comprehend how the standing by in safety to see two men bruise each other almost to death could evince or inspire heroic sentiments or warlike dispositions. He observed, that the Romans were most eager for the fights of gladiators during the reigns of the most effeminate and cruel emperors, and in the decline of all public spirit and virtue...It happened that my feelings were touched at this time by the dreadful sufferings of one of the pugilistic combatants. He died a few hours after the battle. He was an Irishman: most of the spectators being English, and triumphing in the victory of their countryman, the poor fellow's fate was scarcely noticed' (182).  


Annotated Bibliography


Primary Sources


Anon. A Few Observations upon the Fighting for Prizes in the Bear-Gardens. London: n.p, 1715. Accessed via Historical Texts. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.


               I found this text particularly useful because it was one of the earliest published sources I found, but I discovered that many of the claims made against boxing were pertinent to critics at the end of the                century too.


Anon. A Hint on Duelling, in a Letter to a Friend. The Second Edition. To which is added, The Bruiser, or, an Inquiry into the Pretensions of Modern Manhood. In a Letter to a Young Gentleman. London: n.p, 1752. Accessed via Historical Texts. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.       


               Although I did not specifically talk about the comparison the author makes between duelling and boxing, the ideas expressed helped me to understand how discussions were formulated around sport in                the eighteenth century. Also, this source initiated the search into the corruption of boxing because the author challenges the definition of boxing as a 'fair' sport. The author critiques the fact that boxers                fight in matches which are sold to the public as trials of manhood, but in reality the prize fighters are of different heights and weights.                


Author of Eminence. The Complete Art of Boxing, according to the Modern Method; to which is added the General History of Boxing. London: n.p, 1788. Accessed via Historical Texts. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.


               The boxing manuals were the first primary sources I discovered during this project, and it was these that provided me with the names of renowned eighteenth century prize fighters who I went on                to explore in more detail. The recommended daily routine was the only one I found, and was useful for thinking about in relation to the commercialisation of sport and the development of sporting                professionals.      


British Gazetteer. Issue 112. 1 July 1727. Accessed via 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.


               This newspaper advertisement provided the information to a question I had not thought about asking yet, as it contained a note detailing what professional women boxers wore during fights.  


Broughton, John. Proposals for Erecting an Amphitheatre for the Manly Exercise of Boxing. London: n.p, 1743. Accessed via Historical Texts. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.


               Broughton's proposal contained the most direct information about class divides in boxing, and how much the practice relied upon the money of wealthy nobility.    


Daily Advertiser. Issue 4139. 23 April 1744. Accessed via 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.


               I thought the places where tickets for boxing matches were sold would be interesting to note because one of them was a coffee house. Coffee house culture was closely associated with the increased                production and consumption of newspapers; a fact I was interested in when thinking about commercialisation.


Daily Journal. Issue 2381. 26 August 1728. Accessed via 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.


               The main body of this advertisement from the Daily Journal was similar to others at this time, however it provided new information about a gallery for women which was interesting to think about in                conjunction with the emphasis on the gallery being for gentlemen.


---. Issue 3222. 4 May 1731. Accessed via 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.


               This advertisement provided the information I mentioned in the above annotation, regarding the use of the gallery by gentlemen.  


Daily Post. Issue 1887. 12 October 1725. Accessed via 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.


---. Issue 3934. 26 April 1732. Accessed via 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.  


               The classified advertisements in the Daily Post were essential to understanding the discourse surround boxing, as well as specific details about upcoming matches.


Daily Universal Register. Issue 508. 8 August 1786. Accessed via Times Digital Archive 1785 Onwards. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.


               The Daily Universal Register later became The Times, a newspaper which severely criticised boxing. This article was particular useful because it introduced me to a new line of criticism, that of religion.  


Edgeworth, Maria. The Pickering Masters, the Novels and Selected Works of Maria Edgeworth. Volume 1. Ed. Jane Desmarais. London: Pickering & Chatto Limited, 1999. Print.     


               Edgeworth's text offered a presentation of boxing which contrasted to Fielding's, and these two texts confirm the contentious nature of boxing in the eighteenth century.


Edward, Barry. A Letter on the Practice of Boxing, addressed to the Kings, Lords and Commons. London: n.p, 1789. Accessed via Historical Texts. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.    


               Edward's letter was another source I used to help me understand more about the different ways in which boxing was criticised. His presentation of boxing as a 'spectacle' caused me to think about the                popularity of a sport which at this time was often very bloody and brutal.


Egan, Pierce. Boxiana; or Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism; 1812. From the Days of the Renowned Broughton and Slack to the Heroes of the Present Milling Era. London: 1812. Accessed via Defining Gender. Web. 13 Jan. 2016.


               This has been one of the most useful and interesting primary sources as Egan describes matches and individual boxers in detail. Boxiana included particularly useful information on the legal status of                boxing and Broughton's boxing rules.   


Fielding, Henry. The History of Tom Jones A Foundling. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 1992. Print.  


               Although Fielding's novel was important because of its celebration of boxing as a national sport, his investigation of women and boxing was equally valuable for this project.  


Gay, John. A Beggars Opera. Ed. John C Pepusch. New York: Dover Publications, 1973. Print.


               Whilst I only quoted a couple of lines from this source, I found Mrs Peachum's description of masculinity to be extremely similar to those in boxing manuals.  


Haywood, Eliza Fowler. A Wife to be Lett. As it is acted at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, by his Majesty's Servants. London: n.p, 1724. Accessed via Google Books. Web. 10 March. 2016.


               Haywood's investigation of boxing in her play made me think more specifically about class in relation to gender.


Hickey, William. Memoirs of William Hickey, Volume I (1749-1775). Ed. Alfred Spencer. London: Hurst & Blackett, Ltd, 1782. Accessed via The Internet Archives. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.


               This first hand account of an unregulated boxing match was fascinating, and useful to compare to the newspaper advertisements for professional matches between women.


Lemoine, Henry. Modern Manhood; or, The Art and Practice of English boxing. Including the History of the Science of Natural Defence; and Memoirs of the most Celebrated Practitioners of that Manly Exercise. London, 1788. Accessed via Historical Texts. Web. 1 March. 2016.


               I quoted Lemoine at various points throughout the project because I felt he articulated many of the values associated with boxing, such as masculinity and honour.  


London Daily Post. Issue 1172. 1 August 1738. Accessed via 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.


London Journal. Issue CCXIV. 31 August 1723. Accessed via 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.


Mendoza, Daniel. The Modern Art of Boxing, as practiced by Mendoza, Humphreys, Ryan, Ward, Watson, Johnson, and other eminent Pugilists. London: n.p, 1789. Accessed via Historical Texts. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.


               Whilst I did not cite this text, or explore it specifically, it was one of the many manuals which were produced as boxing became increasingly popular. It was consequently useful for thinking about how                individuals were interested in learning the details of boxing.


Old Bailey Proceedings Online. 12 April 1727. Web. 3 Feb. 2016.     


---. 30 June 1734. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.


               I was surprised by the number of records in which men (women did not appear in the cases I found) had died as a result of boxing matches which were fought to settle disagreements. The prisoners                were nearly always charged with manslaughter.  


Philip, Edward. The Adventures of a Black Coat. Containing A Series of Remarkable Occurrences and Entertaining Incidents, That it was a Witness to in its Peregrinations through the Cities of London and Westminster, in Company with a Variety of Characters. As related by Itself. London: n.p, 1767. Accessed via University of Warwick Library E-resources. Web. 2 March. 2016.  


               Whilst Philip's it-narrative did not offer a new insight into how boxing was perceived, the mention of Broughton and his amphitheatre revealed a lot about how boxing as a sport was firmly rooted in                society.  


The Times. Issue 950. 12 January 1788. Accessed via Times Digital Archive 1785 Onwards. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.


---. Issue 1168. 1 June 1789. Accessed via Times Digital Archive 1785 Onwards. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.  


               Boxing was frequently criticised in The Times, despite the fact that they still included information on matches. This emphasised for me how much the printing press relied on sports coverage.    


Vasey, William. Remarks on the Influence of Pugilism on Morals; Being the Substance of a Speech delivered at the Newcastle Debating Society, on the Fourth of November,1824. Newcastle: n.p, 1824. Accessed via Google Books. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.


               This speech which criticised the corrupt nature of boxing supported the ideas suggested by the artist of The Bruiser Bruisd; Or, the Knowing Ones Taken-in and the anonymous author of The Bruiser, or,                an Inquiry into the Pretensions of Modern Manhood.   


Weekly Journal. Issue 158. 1 June 1728. Accessed via 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 20 Feb 2016.  


               This advertisement taken from the Weekly Journal  is similarly to the other advertisements for prize fights which were printed in abundance in the eighteenth century. However, the note at the                bottom revealed how women did teach sports too. Unfortunately I could not find any more information on women teachers.   


Whitehead, Paul. The Gymnasiad: or, Boxing-match. An Epic Poem. With the Prolegomena of Scriblerus Tertius, and Notes Variorum. Dublin: n.p, 1744. Accessed via Historical Texts. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.


               Whitehead's poem is a fascinating satire which expresses the criticism of boxing as a savage practice in a new and exciting style.                


The York Chronicle, And Weekly Advertiser. Issue 19. 23 April 1773. Accessed via Eighteenth Century Journals: A Portal to Newspapers and Periodicals, c1685-1835. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.   


               This useful report of a match found in The York Chronicle, disclosed the value of the prize money for a specific match which was useful when considering the financial incentives of becoming a                professional boxer.


Secondary Sources


Birley, Derek. Sport and the making of Britain. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1993. Print.


               Whilst a lot of the book discusses sport in relation to British politics, Birley's discussion on the intervention of magistrates in fights was invaluable in prompting me to investigate the legal status of prize-               fighting and search for primary sources which commented on this.


Holt, Richard. Sport and the British, A Modern History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.


               Holt's mention of Egan's Boxiana was crucial, because it exposed me to a primary source which was incredibly useful in discerning the details of specific matches. Additionally, I could only access Boxiana                via the Defining Gender database, but in doing this I was encouraged to search in a range of different databases.        


Langford, Paul. A Polite and Commercial People: England, 1723 - 1783. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992. Print.


               Langford's book does not specifically explore boxing, however it introduced me to the campaign to reform Britain's morals, which was useful because boxing was frequently criticised for its immorality.  


Plumb, J.H. The Commercialisation of Leisure in Eighteenth-Century England. Reading: University of Reading, 1973. Print.


               This short transcript of a speech Plumb made explores the commercialisation of leisure by focussing particularly on the theatre and horse racing. However, his text encouraged me to think further                about how the printing press specifically increased the popularity of boxing.  


Shoemaker, Robert B. The London Mob: Violence and Disorder in Eighteenth-Century England. London: Hambledon and London, 2004. Print.


               This book explores a variety of aspects of life in London in the eighteenth century, including 'Public Insults' and 'Crowds and Riots.' The section on 'Duels and Boxing Matches' helped me understand the                importance of the role of the spectator.




Figure 1 - Graph accessed via Historical Texts after generating a search for the word 'boxing.' 


Figure 2 - Title page of The Complete Art of Boxing by an Author of Eminence. Accessed via Historical Texts.


Figure 3 - Trade card for James Figg, accessed via The British Museum Collection Online.


Figure 4 - Title page of John Broughton's Proposals for Erecting an Amphitheatre. Accessed via Historical Texts.   


Figure 5 - View of the battle between Johnson and Perrins at Banbury, accessed via The British Museum Collection Online.


Figure 6 - Excerpt from the London Journal accessed via 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.  


Figure 7 - Excerpt from the Daily Journal accessed via 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.


Figure 8 - Excerpt from the Weekly Journal accessed via 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. 


Figure 9 - Excerpt from the British Gazetteer accessed via 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.


Figure 10 - The Female Bruisers by John Collet. Accessed via The British Museum Collection Online.  


Figure 11 - Six Stages of Marring a Face by Thomas Rowlandson. Accessed via The British Museum Collection Online.


Figure 12 - Six Stages of Mending a Face by Thomas Rowlandson. Accessed via The British Museum Collection Online.  


Figure 13 - The Second Stage of Cruelty by William Hogarth. Accessed via The British Museum Collection Online.


Figure 14 - The Bruiser Bruisd; Or, the Knowing Ones Taken-in, accessed via The British Museum Collection Online.


Figure 15 - The Prize Fight by Thomas Rowlandson. Accessed via ArtStor.


Figure 16 - Excerpt from Egan's Boxiana. Accessed via Defining Gender.


Figure 17 - Title page of The Gymnasiad: or, Boxing-Match. An Epic Poem. With the Prolegomena of Scriblerus Tertius, and Notes Variorum. Accessed via Historical Texts.


Dictionary Entry


Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed via:



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