The Gentleman Boxer: Boxing, Manners, and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century England

Karen Downing

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Prize fighting was enormously popular during the second half of the eighteenth century in Britain. It became a fashion perhaps experienced as keenly by contemporary men of all classes as the "culture of sensibility" that describes this period of increasing politeness in society. This juxtaposition illustrates a vexing eighteenth-century issue: could a man be both polite and manly? This article argues that men across the social spectrum found in the "gentleman boxer" a resolution to this issue. The gentleman boxer synthesized traditionally held views of manliness with the civilizing effects of modern consumerism, acknowledged the concerns and aspirations of men of all classes, and responded to the political imperative for fighting men capable of forging a new nation bent on empire building. The gentleman boxer was both polite and manly and a fine example of a masculine identity negotiated between individual conceptions of the self and the material circumstances in which that self is found.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)328-352
    JournalMen and Masculinities
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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