A Chronological History of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports 1700-1859 (rev 01/05)

About 1700:

The National Library of Canada provides an authorized mirror of this e-publication. The base document, however, is the one at Most recent update: December 2004. Copyright © 2000-2004 Joseph R. Svinth All rights reserved.




Kronos; A Chronology of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports, represents my idiosyncratic interpretation of the history of the martial arts, combative sports, and associated philosophical topics. If you have suggestions for improvement, please let me know. If you think you can do better, please do so.

The periods covered are:

0000 to 0499:

0500 to 1349:

1350 to 1699:

1700 to 1859:

1860 to 1899:

1900 to 1939:

1940 to present:

The bibliographies are at:




Online references, a summary of recent changes, and general housekeeping information are found at:

If you prefer reading traditional print format, then please see the abbreviated chronology in Thomas A. Green, Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2001). Meanwhile, if you prefer reading articles arranged topically rather than chronologically, then please see the essays in Green's encyclopedia and the chapters in Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth, editors, Martial Arts in the Modern World (Greenwood, 2003).

Finally, if you want to see how Kronos has evolved over time, then please see the first edition, which appears online at




About 1700:

Ma Hsueh-li, a hsing-i boxer from Honan province whose name suggests that he was a Chinese Muslim, dies after bumping his head while dodging an imaginary attacker. As Ma has been described as a man who loved to fight, his death may have been a case of boxer’s encephalopathy. Boxer’s encephalopathy describes a brain disease common among boxers, especially those known for taking a good punch. Symptoms include slowed reaction times, delusions regarding actual abilities, and echokinesis, which means going through the motions of being a boxer in the ring even when there is no one there.

British antiquarians including Edward Lhuyd and Henry Rowlands link the Welsh with the Druids, who in turn were said to have been Celtic priests. The idea appealed to many, and a sign on the front of a pub on Poland Street in London reads "In this Old King’s Arms Tavern the Ancient Order of Druids was revived 28th November 1781. This commemorative plaque was placed here on the 150th anniversary By the AOD."


Quaker politicians ban cockfighting, prizefighting, and games of chance in Philadelphia, but by mid-century German immigrants and English merchants have the legislation repealed. The motivation for the original Quaker ban is suggested by Karl von Uffenbach’s description of a London cockfight in 1710: "The people, gentlefolk as well as commoners (they all sit together), act like madmen and go on raising the odds to twenty guineas and more. As soon as one of the bidders calls ‘done,’ … the other is held to his bargain… If a man has made a bet and is unable to pay, he is made, as a punishment, to sit in a basket tied to the ceiling and is drawn up in it amidst mighty laughter. The people become as heated about their wagers as the cocks themselves."


The Middlesex grand jury complains about the playbills hung about London by "Men that stile themselves Masters of Defense."

After committing a social gaffe at the Tokugawa court, Lord Asano Naganori of Ako, Japan, is ordered to commit suicide and forfeit his lands. Forty-seven of his retainers plot revenge against the nobles who caused Lord Asano’s death, and afterwards commit suicide themselves. This is the basis behind the story known as "The 47 Loyal Ronin."


Daily newspapers appear in London. Newspapers first appeared in Amsterdam during the 1620s. They came out every week or so. They had to be censored prior to publication, so they could appear no more than once or twice a week. Then, in 1695, the English government abolished pre-publication censorship. This made publishing quicker, thus the move toward more frequent publication. To increase sales, the new dailies included more news of horse races, stock market swindles, and sensational crimes. As for the way these papers were read, a Swiss visitor to London reported in 1726 that "most craftsmen begin the day by going to the coffee-house to read the news there. I have often seen shoe-blacks and other people of that kind club together to buy a newspaper… and to read it together." Daily newspapers appeared in Denmark in 1749, Sweden in 1758, Norway in 1765, and France in 1789. Modern mass nationalism owes a great deal to the editorials and news articles published in these papers.


The British Army starts replacing its matchlock and snaphaunce muskets with .75 caliber flintlock muskets. The reason was mostly to standardize ammunition issue. Properly known as Tower muskets, the issue weapons were commonly known as Brown Besses, after the rust-resistant brown finish that sergeants liked soldiers to buff to a bright silver sheen. Tower muskets remained popular with British generals and politicians for the next 140 years. Reasons included comparatively high rates of fire, relatively low manufacturing costs, and reliability. Yet, as they weighed 14 pounds each, they cannot have been especially beloved by the rank-and-file, especially since the training that soldiers received with the weapons consisted mostly of carrying them about and fixing and unfixing bayonets. Contemporary musketry training was rudimentary at best. Partly this was because military weapons were designed for speed loading rather than accuracy. But it was also because the flash from their pans was so fearsome that soldiers were taught to close their eyes and turn their heads away to prevent eye injuries. For the safety of officers and NCOs, ammunition was only issued after ranks had been formed and the enemy sighted. Viewed this way, close-order drill was actually nothing more than an early form of industrial safety.


The Scottish mariner Alexander Selkirk is marooned for four years on Masatierra Island, off the coast of Chile. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the islands off the Chilean coast were regularly visited by privateers raiding Spain’s Pacific holdings, and Daniel Defoe’s fictionalized account of Selkirk’s adventures is known as Robinson Crusoe.

Marksmanship contests, foot races, and wrestling matches are associated with corn husking parties and militia days in New England. Besides honor and reputation, prizes included bread and beer.

About 1705:

Spanish officials describe the arrival in New Mexico of a Plains Indian culture known as the Comanches, after a Ute word meaning "Those Who Are Always Against Us." These Shoshone-speaking Indians originally came from the Snake River country of Idaho, and they used pinto ponies to pursue bison herds, Indians, and Mexicans across Texas and northern Mexico. Despite the Comanches’ northern origin, their saddles and bridles were essentially copies of Spanish tack, and the Comanche riders even mounted from the right, as Spaniards did. And, like all good equestrians, the Comanches loved their horses, which they pampered like polo ponies and treated better than they did their wives. Because a Comanche raid covered hundreds of miles and lasted for months, wives often accompanied war parties, where they served as snipers, cooks, and torturers. Unmarried Comanche women were also known to have ridden into combat, although this was considered somewhat scandalous. Comanche offensive weapons included short self-bows made from Osage orange and 14-foot long lances made from seasoned ash or oak. (While the Comanches had firearms, they carried them mostly for status.) Defensive weapons included bison-hide helmets and shields, magnificent horsemanship, mystical war magic, and great pride and arrogance.


An English dandy named Richard "Beau" Nash introduces the first book of etiquette to suggest that gentlemen to refrain from brawling in public, crowding in front of ladies at balls, or wearing swords or heavy boots to dances. In its time, this code was more often ignored than followed.

To raise the huge armies that he needed to defeat the better-organized Swedes, Peter the Great introduces mass conscription to Russia. The standard was one recruit per twenty taxpaying households. The requirement quickly caused tens of thousands of householders to move in with relatives. (In 1678, there were 800,000 households in Russia, whereas by 1710 this had declined to 640,000.)


A trooper in the British cavalry regiment known as the Scots Greys is discovered to be a woman. At the time, she had thirteen years service in various regiments and campaigns. Subsequently known as Mother Ross, Mrs. Christian Davies had enlisted after first giving her children to her mother and a nurse. She spent her military career dressed in a uniform whose waistcoat was designed to compress and disguise her breasts.


The French opera star Julie La Maupin dies at the age of 37; in 1834 novelist Théophile Gautier made her famous as Mademoiselle de Maupin. In her time she was a noted fencer and cross-dresser; her fencing masters included her father, Gaston d’Aubigny, and a lover, a man named Sérannes. Other redoubtable Frenchwomen of the day included Madame de la Pré-Abbé and Mademoiselle de la Motte, who in 1665 fired pistols at one another from horseback from a range of about ten yards, and then, after missing twice, took to fighting with swords. And in 1868, two women named Marie P. and Aimée R. dueled over which would get to marry a young man from Bordeaux. Marie was hit in the thigh with the first shot, leaving Aimée free to marry the young man. (Or so said the popular press.)

The Scottish swordsman Sir William Hope publishes his New Short and Easy Method of Fencing. Though influenced by French theory, the system he described was essentially British, and described the use of the small-sword (e.g., the civilian rapier) in training, duels, and self-defense. The text was intended to round out the methods introduced in Hope’s earlier books, most notably The Scots Fencing Master (1687), which became The Compleat Fencing Master upon being published in London in 1692.

About 1709:

Swiss and German settlers introduce hair-triggered, short-barreled, .70 caliber rifled muskets into British North America. These German weapons were more accurate and pleasant to shoot than Brown Bess or Charleville muskets. Pennsylvania Dutch gunsmiths began making these rifles around 1725. British settlers and hunters called these new weapons "long rifles" or "Pennsylvania rifles," and buying large numbers of them during the 1750s. Both Tories and Continentals used long rifles during the American Revolution, as did Kentucky and Tennessee volunteers during the War of 1812. (Indeed, the weapons received the name "Kentucky rifles" following their use by Kentucky volunteers during the Battle of New Orleans.) In Europe, while the Germans raised a few rifle companies, the British did not begin seriously experimenting with them until 1800. Supposedly this was because rifles were slower to reload than muskets. But this wasn’t true, as a good man with a Ferguson rifle could fire four shots a minute while walking or six shots a minute while standing. Furthermore, rifles required no more cleaning than any other firearm. So more likely reasons were that the weapons did not take standard cartridges, of which there were millions in existence, and that their stocks were too fragile to use for butt-stroking.

The Royal Chronicles of Ayudhaya describe the Siamese King Sorasak, also known as Phra Chao Seua, or "Tiger King," participating in village prizefights. These fights were evidently the predecessors of muay Thai, or Thai boxing.


The Governor’s Council of New York bans play-acting and prizefighting. Massachusetts enacted similar ordinances in 1750. Historian Elliott Gorn suggests that these were probably local reactions to newly rich merchants attempting to recreate an English aristocratic lifestyle. The prizefighting banned, by the way, was probably fencing and cudgel play rather than pugilism, as in London that same year Sir Richard Steele noted with some surprise that two London gentlemen decided to duel with "wrathful fists" instead of swords or pistols. The reason was to avoid causing serious injury or death.


Ill-mannered English youths become known as Mohocks. Besides excessive drinking, fighting, and swearing, Mohock recreations included capturing elderly women, stuffing them into barrels, and then rolling them down London’s Snow Hill. English teamsters were not much better behaved. Wrote poet John Gay in Trivia, "On Foot the frowning Warriors light,/And with their pond’rous Fists renew the Fight;/Blow answers Blow, their Cheeks are ‘smear’d with Blood,/’Till down they fall, and grappling roll in Mud."

A writer for the London Spectator observes "a ring of cudgel-players, who were breaking one another’s heads in order to make some impression on their mistresses’ hearts." This cudgel-play was then followed by a football game and a wrestling match. Rewards included free beer for all players plus hats, cups, and other prizes for the winners.

English physical culturalists write that lifting weights provides all the pleasures of boxing without any of the discomfort of receiving the blows.

Zachery Wylde self-publishes a book called The English Master of Defence. Its forty pages described "The True art of single-Rapier and small Sword… [and] The exact rules of wrestling, explaining all the nice holds, both in and out Catches, Hugs, Trips, and Locks, after what manner they are Taken, and how to be Broken." Key to success, said Wylde, was ensuring that "Passion, Fury nor Choler, which are absolute Enemies to skill, in no case prevail, if you do, ‘twill destroy your Judgement… Practice is the Marrow and Quintessence of the Art." Technically, he thought that the Cornish men did some of the best cross-buttocks throws in Christendom, and he advised his readers to study their techniques. As for breaking those cross-buttock throws, Wylde advised clapping the "edge of your Hand very hard under his Chin; or the Palm of your Hand upon his Nose; these ways breaks all Holds that can be taken." And, sounding for all the world like a self-defense instructor of the 1950s, Wylde advised that to disengage from an Opposer who "holds on your Collar, with his left hand, and keeps you stiffly out at length, then seize fast hold with your left Hand, on the upper part of his Wrists; then twist or turn his Wrist inwards with your full strength, and at the same juncture Strike forceably upon the Elbow of his Arm, which will much endanger to break it."


England’s Charles, Lord Mohun, and James Douglas, Duke of Hamilton, fight a duel in Hyde Park during which the two men "fought with so violent an animosity that, neglecting the rules of art they seemed to run on one another, as if they’d tried who should kill first." Although the duel was immortalized in William Thackery’s History of Henry Esmond and Jonathan Swift’s Journal to Stella, its ferocity horrified the Fancy, and caused its members to start holding pistol duels instead of sword duels. Why pistols? Explained the English rake William Hickey in 1808, this was because seconds could privately agree to not load balls into the duelists’ pistols without the principals being any the wiser. Thus honor was satisfied without much risk to either party. This must have been a common practice, too, as there were just 91 fatal duels in all of England between 1760 and 1820. (This implies about 450 duels in 60 years, as fatality rates have been calculated at about 20%.)

As part of preparations for a war with Sweden, the Tula Arsenal, Russia’s oldest extant arms factory, is established south of Moscow. The weapons made at Tula were rifles rather than smoothbore muskets, and they were accurate to about 100 yards. In this case, accuracy meant hitting a target seven feet in diameter most of the time.

Japanese laws are changed to allow women to work as waitresses in teahouses and taverns.

About 1713:

The merchants of New Orleans sell muskets, rum, and iron artifacts (mainly pans, arrowheads, and hatchets) to the Caddoan Indians of East Texas. (The word tejas is a Caddoan word meaning "allies.") This French interest in East Texas draws the Mexicans back into West Texas despite their having been driven out by the Comanches during the 1690s.


The Prussian King Frederick William I orders his soldiers to pull their hair back into pigtails, so that they might look better on parade. The battlefield successes of his son Frederick II (the Great) turns this hairstyle into a mid-eighteenth century military fad. So when the United States Army abolished powdered wigs and pigtails in 1801, it almost started a mutiny.

Sir Thomas Parkyns of Bunny Park, Nottingham, publishes a book called The Inn-Play, or Cornish Hugg Wrestling. The Inn-Play of the title referred to the close-in grips and throws of Cornish or Breton Gouren wrestling. (Though the third edition of 1727 included a section on boxing, the first edition only discussed wrestling.) The wrestler’s attire was a pair of linen drawers, wide at the knees and easy above. The best shoes had narrow heels and were low-quartered. Shirt collars and wrist bands were left unbuttoned "for fear your Antagonist should get his hand into your Shirt Neck, or Collar, and by holding his Arms up, and thrusting his Knuckles against your Wind-pipe, and you for want of Breath be oblig’d to yield him a Fall." Norfolk Out-Play, or Loose Leg, wrestling was also described. "The Out-Players and such," said Parkyns, "would throw their Adversary at Trip, &c." The defense against their techniques was to raise your knee, and then countering with a kick to his thigh. "But if you intend to shift, and play the loose Leg don’t stand wide… but narrow and loose, and let your Leg which he designeth to trip at himmost (which you easily may Know by the Hold he taketh on you,) stand fast on that Leg which you set backwards, and so soon as he toucheth your leg with his foot to draw you over it, throw your Heels backwards as if you would Kneel upon his Leg, then may you if quick catch the outside of his Leg, or down quick with yours to the Ground, and recover your Stand." Parkyn’s wrestling also had self-defense applications. To eliminate contentious companions that disturbed your mirth, Parkyns advised taking hold of his collar behind with the left hand, "and with your right put between his legs as far as his Codpiss, and lift him up easily, and thrust him out of the Room, for he can never turn upon you, but if you lift him too hard, you’ll throw him on his Nose."


A Máistir pionnsa, or fencing master, named Alexander Doyle starts teaching Irish fencing in Germany, claiming it developed obedience to orders, quickness of eye, agility, and physical fitness in young men thinking of military careers. Because British law prohibited Catholic Irish from owning swords, Irish fencing masters often trained using single-sticks instead of swords. Their targets included elbows, shoulders, and knees. The sticks were clutched about a foot from the bottom in order to protect the elbow. Some of these Irish cudgels (which Protestants called shillelaghs, but Catholics more often called alpeen, kippeen, batai, or maidi) were made from oak. However, in West Limerick, ash saplings were more popular, while at Galway it was blackthorn roots with lead poured into their bases.

As industrial strikes and riots become increasingly commonplace, the English Parliament passes the Riot Act. This authorized magistrates to order unlawful assemblies of twelve or more persons to disperse on penalty of death. Nevertheless, London continued to have riots and demonstrations requiring massive military or police intervention once a generation for the next 250 years. (For those interested, the years were 1743, 1768, 1780, 1810, 1816, 1831-1833, 1848, 1866, 1886-1887, 1910, 1936, 1967-1968, and 1981.)


The words of Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a provincial samurai-turned-Buddhist monk, are collected, bound, and titled Hagakure ("Hidden among the Leaves"). Although obscure during its own time, during the 1930s Hagakure became popular with Japanese ultranationalists and the quote, "The Way of the Samurai is found in death," was especially popular. During the 1960s, Hagakure was also popular with Japanese nationalists such as Mishima Yukio, a right-wing novelist who quoted from it before committing ritual suicide at a Japanese Self-Defense Force headquarters in 1970. Hagakure’s popularity with the Japanese political ultra-right was ironic, as Yamamoto was a peaceable man who spent most of his career collecting poetry books. Some Christian influence is possible, as Yamamoto lived near Nagasaki, a traditional Christian stronghold, and the Italian priest Lorenzo Scupoli published Spiritual Combat in 1589, and Pensez-y-bien, a treatise on the art of dying a good death, was a seventeenth century French best-seller.

To counter the French threat to Mexico posed by bases in Louisiana, the Spanish establish missions and forts throughout south and east Texas. Although the Spanish occupation was itself peaceful, it ultimately destroyed the local American Indian cultures by exposing them to European diseases and the women-stealing raids of the Apache-Navajo, Comanche, and Wichita equestrians.

About 1717:

A ronin named Terada Kanemon establishes Kito-ryu jujutsu. This style traced its lineage to the wrestling taught by Fukuno of Nagoya. Similar styles created around the same time include the Kiushin-ryu of Inugami Nagakatsu and the Sekiguchi-ryu of Sekiguchi Jushin. All these styles were considered "unarmed" arts, as they taught unarmored men how to kill using everyday weapons such as knives and ropes. They also taught truly unarmed men how to force submission by throwing, choking, or joint locking.


To improve their military effectiveness, Peter the Great requires Russian noblemen to provide their sons with instruction in dancing, fencing, and riding. While the language of instruction was French, the dancing, fencing, and riding styles were German and Dutch.

About 1718:

The Prussians introduce iron ramrods and funnel-shaped touchholes. These provided the Prussian soldiers a faster and more reliable means of loading flintlocks. This increased rates of volleyed fire to nearly six shots per minute. Still, using an iron rod and hammer to pound lead balls into a steel tube is a noisy process. So hunters continued wrapping their rounds in greased patches and pounding them home with wooden mallets and ramrods. Which is another reason why European soldiers preferred smoothbore muskets while North American frontiersmen preferred long-barreled rifles.


Toward stopping rice speculation, the Ch’ing Dynasty issues laws banning Chinese merchants who moved overseas from returning home. While these bans were widely ignored (and indeed rescinded in 1728), their threat caused some Okinawan merchants to establish their own trading posts in and around Amoy. There they would have seen, and perhaps practiced, various Chinese boxing arts.


James Figg, an English Master of Defense from Thame, Oxfordshire, starts entertaining crowds at Southwark Fair with feats of foil-play, backsword, cudgeling, and boxing. Four years later, Figg went into management, too, and opened a house in Marylbone featuring bear baiting, cockfighting, and pugilism. His patrons included the Earl of Peterborough. In June 1727, Ned Sutton of Gravesend challenged Figg to prove that he was the best Master of Defense in the land. Their match was an all-morning event held behind the Adam and Eve Tea Gardens on Tottenham Court. The mill began with a broadsword match followed by a boxing match, and concluded with a cudgel match. Sutton lost all three events to Figg, and went home with a broken knee from the cudgel fighting. Said Sutton to Figg afterwards: "You are a brave fellow and my master." In these matches, there appear to have been no special rules except those agreed upon in advance by the fighters. (And surely managers made sure this was done. Otherwise players would have done as Sir Thomas Parkyns advised, and started by throwing pepper in each other’s eyes. While this would have led to short fights, that would not have pleased the crowds.) Boxing, though, proved more popular with the Fancy, as wealthy English gamblers and their women were collectively known, than fencing and cudgeling. Figg’s personal admirers included Sir Robert Walpole, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Robert Byrum, and it is possible that the etymology of the word "fan" comes from "Fancy" rather than "fanatic."

About 1720:

In Tibet, the Uighur Turks acquire muskets from the Russians. Powder remained a problem, though, and the new weapons did not help the Turks much during their futile resistance against some of the finest Chinese armies ever fielded.

Although the Chinese had laws prohibiting non-military personnel from owning bows, swords, or firearms, an official named Lan Ting-yüan argues that the crews of merchant ships should be allowed to carry arms to protect themselves from pirates. After considerable deliberation, his government agrees, and in 1728, new laws are passed allowing junks sailing to Japan, the Ryukyus, Siam, or Indonesia to carry eight muskets, ten sets of bows and arrows, and 25 pounds of powder. Of course, how many Chinese merchants invoked this privilege is another question, as Chinese pirates usually killed the men, raped the women, and sold into slavery the children of any vessel that unsuccessfully resisted them.


Elizabeth Wilkinson of Clerkenwell challenges Hannah Hyfield of Newgate Market to meet her on stage, and box for a prize of three guineas. The rules of the engagement required each woman to strike each other in the face while holding a half-crown coin in each fist, and the first to drop a coin would be the loser. According to John Trenchard’s London Journal, the two women "maintained the Battle with great Valour for a long Time, to the no small Satisfaction of the Spectators." These rules perhaps suggest how bare-knuckle boxing began, as James Figg was a chief promoter of women’s fighting. During August 1725 Figg and a woman called Long Meg of Westminster fought Ned Sutton and an unnamed woman; Figg and Meg took the prize of £40. Nevertheless, says historian Elliott Gorn, the sporadic appearance of women at English prizefights only "underscored male domination of the culture of the ring."

A Hanoverian ambassador named Friedrich Christian Weber writes that the working-class men of Saint Petersburg frequently boxed after church on Sunday. This was not Queensberry rules boxing; that was only introduced to Saint Petersburg in 1897. Instead, this was "wall-to-wall fighting." Bouts took place on a large, grassy field on the south side of the Neva River. Four rows of players arranged themselves by age, and then went forward to brawl row at a time. When the combat was over, Weber noted that the ground was "full of blood and hair, and many had to be carried away." So why did the Russians do it? Said the writer Andrei Platonov 200 years later, the bell in the church provided all the entertainment there was in town. Therefore "on holidays -- even the least important ones -- furious battles were arranged with [men from other towns]. Men fought to the death, in a kind of ecstasy of violence, until someone had got hit over his heart or his liver, and he would be shaking all over, white and dying, until the crowd parted around him to let the wind and the cool come in. And then the fight would go on again."

A book on black magic called the Marvelous Secrets of the Natural and Cabalistic Magic of Little Albert is published in France. By the 1750s, copies of this book had found their way to the slave colony of Santo Domingo, probably for the purpose of countering the dark powers that the pious attributed to the voodoo deities known as Guedé and Baron Samedi, and the cynical to the nefarious practices of various Haitian secret societies.


Equating Roman Catholic Indians with wolves, the Massachusetts Bay Colony hires bounty hunters to collect the scalps of the Norridgewock Abenaki and their 65-year old Jesuit priest, Father Sébastian Rale. Ethics aside, hair buying had its problems. One was that it did nothing to discourage the Indians from making equally bloody-minded reprisals. Another was that scalp-hunters frequently got lazy. The Mexicans, for instance, chased several English and American scalp hunters out of Chihuahua in the 1840s after discovering that the scalps they were buying included Mexicans and Texans among them. One of the better known eighteenth century scalp-hunters was a Scot named James Moore, who used his scalp money to buy the position of town librarian of Glasgow in 1750, despite being unable to read or write.


The Okinawan government starts relocating impoverished aristocrats outside the Ryukyuan capital of Shuri. This was probably for the purpose of overseeing cash crop production. As some of these aristocrats practiced martial arts as part of their family traditions, this resettlement may have introduced Shuri-te karate into the Okinawan countryside. On the other hand, as Okinawan peasants probably lacked the leisure to perfect a traditional boxing style, it is impossible to say for sure.

About 1725:

English hunters start shooting grouse in the air rather than punt-gunning them on the ground, or killing them with hawks or capturing them live with nets.


According to its advertising, the first international pugilistic event occurs at Figg’s School of Arms on Oxford Street in London. This pitted a Venetian gondolier named Stopa l’Acqua against John Whitacker of London, and resulted in an English victory. Figg also hosted a fencing match between an English woman and an Irish woman during 1725. The venue was probably the Marylebone Gardens, which featured fireworks, animal-baits, and contests "between the most eminent professors, both male and female, of the art of defence."

About 1726:

The vergüenza torrea, or bullfighters’ code, is created in Spain.


After his army takes heavy casualties during a slave raiding expedition against Ouidah, King Agaja of Dahomey creates a female palace guard and arms it with Danish trade muskets. By the nineteenth century this female bodyguard had 5,000 members. One thousand carried firearms. The rest served as porters, drummers, and litter-bearers. These Dahomeyan women trained for war through vigorous dancing and elephant hunting. They were prohibited from becoming pregnant on pain of death. They fought as well or better than male soldiers, and were said by Richard Burton to be better soldiers than their incompetent male leadership deserved.

Following a century of piratical invasions, crop failures, and weak local government, clan and lineage feuds erupt throughout southern China. At first, the fighters all had the same surnames, and did their killings using sharp-edged farm tools and the usual assortment of knives and clubs. With a few years, though, most fighters were professional who fired guns from ambush or vagrants hired for the occasion. Either way, they were not Shaolin monks, but thugs. Training, when it existed, was done in great secrecy. This was partly to keep rival gangsters from learning what was being done, and mainly to avoid police attention. While many, perhaps most so-called masters had a very low standard of knowledge, few were honest enough to admit that their elaborate explanations and rituals were, in the words of the British colonial administrator Wilfred Blythe, "a lot of mumbo-jumbo through which they extract a livelihood from a credulous public."

A British drillmaster named Humphrey Bland writes that marching in step is "so difficult, that it will deter a great many from attempting it." But it got easier as roads began to be given hard surfaces and good drainage. Therefore the Prussians started goose-stepping during the 1740s, while the French started goose-stepping during the 1760s.


In a book called The Expert Sword-Man’s Companion: or the True Art of Self-Defence, the Scottish fencing master Donald MacBane warns his readers to watch out for ruffian’s tricks such as throwing sand or grit into the eyes. The advice was hard-earned, too, as the author’s military experience reportedly 16 battles, 52 sieges, and 116 campaigns. As for his background, he was born a Highlander but then joined a Lowland Scottish military unit. Following several encounters with pimps he found it useful to leave Scotland for Ireland, where he continued his ways in Limerick. After a couple years MacBane went to Holland, where he served with Marlborough’s army. In garrison, he taught fencing on the side. To get people to believe he was a master, he had to fight 24 duels. These were probably fairly serious affairs, too, as besides soldiering and prizefighting MacBane’s other interests included organizing gambling and prostitution.

The Chinese government condemns boxing teachers as drifters and idlers who refused to work at their proper occupations, and who led their disciples to gambling, drinking and brawls. As there was no mention made of charms, incantations, or sectarian activities, the proscribed boxers were probably brothel guards and street thugs rather than Shaolin monks. Still, there may have been monks who imitated the antics and methods of the actors to increase their followings. At least that was the case in eighteenth century Venice, where the French traveler Denis Diderot described mountebanks performing bawdy farces on one side of a square and priests performing religious farces on the other side of the square. Cried the Italian preachers: "Take no notice of those wretches, gentlemen; the Pulcinello you are flocking to is a feeble fool; here (displaying the crucifix) is the genuine Pulcinello!"

About 1730:

According to a story first published in 1785, an English industrialist hires a tailor to redesign his Scottish workers’ clothing, which had previously consisted of little more than a long cloak or blanket cinched at the waist with a belt. The result is the felie beg, or little kilt. Iconographic evidence suggests, however, that Scottish aristocrats invented the style, and that English woolens manufacturers simply copied it.

English law is changed to allow defendants to have lawyers.

According to a nineteenth century New England historian named Joseph Tracey, the Protestant religious revival known as the Great Awakening sweeps across Britain and its American colonies, thereby causing politicians to consider new ways of ensuring the separation of Church and State. In its own time, the Great Awakening was important mainly for persecuting dancing, singing, cockfighting, and anything else that distracted people from reading Bibles or singing hymns.


John Smith, a London street boxer who let people punch him as hard as they liked for a fee, is killed after taking one punch too many. Such results were probably not uncommon, as a newspaper account of 1789 described a good fight as one where "there was no shifting, or falling back to avoid a hit, and nothing but a real knock-down blow could bring either of the combatants to the floor." To judge by pictures and written descriptions, movement was mostly linear. Offensive techniques included chops with the hammer-fist, strikes with the back-fist or thumb, and lunge punches. Defense relied on the left forearm. Counterattacks, or returns, came only after the initial attack had been deflected. Wrestling was allowed, but rarely used. The boxers were often butchers, and their prizes included gallon jugs of beer. Pre-fight training included a trip to a female diviner to determine auspicious days for the match.


A Magyar apostate named Ibrahim Muteferrika introduces printing presses into the Ottoman Empire. The texts produced on these presses discussed military and political developments rather than religion.


A Nagasaki physician (either Akiyama Shinobu or Miura Yoshin, depending on which tradition you believe) establishes a jujutsu style known as the Yoshin-ryu, or "Willow-heart School." The name alluded to willow trees bending before the wind rather than resisting it. It reflected its founder’s philosophy that a wrestler should blend with his opponent’s energy rather than resisting it. While the philosophy is sometimes claimed as a root of modern judo, more tangible roots include Yagyu Shinkage-ryu kenjutsu and Kito-ryu jujutsu. Why? Because teachers of these styles invented the word "judo," meaning techniques designed to restrain rather than kill, during the eighteenth century, and taught judo pioneer Kano Jigoro to wrestle during the nineteenth century.

The British colonial administrator James Oglethorpe introduces cotton into Georgia, thus turning plantation slavery into an economically viable industry. The cottonseed, by the way, came from the Chelsea Physic Garden in London.


The oldest surviving ranking sheet for sumotori is issued for a tournament in Kyoto. Ranking sheets become common throughout Japan after 1757, and today they are often exchanged as New Year’s greeting cards.

Thomas Topham, a 23-year old Islington strongman, awes London crowds by bending two-inch thick iron bars over his arm and pewter dishes between his fingers. Topham’s venue was the Mitre Tavern on Fleet Street, a favorite haunt of the Royal Society, and Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers recorded his feats.

William Hogarth makes an engraving called Southwark Fair. One corner of this bawdy satire shows a boxer entertaining a disorderly crowd with foil-play, backsword, cudgeling, and boxing. While boxing scribes often claim that Hogarth’s boxer is James Figg, art historians are less certain. Either way, Figg was drawn by Jonathan Richardson the Elder around 1714 and again by John Faber II around 1729. The 1714 picture shows Figg with a shaved head while the 1729 picture shows him with his hair tucked under a cloth cap. As Roman art was all the rage in eighteenth century Britain, it is possible that the shaved heads represent artistic license rather than actual boxing practice.

In Boston, Massachusetts, the Boston Gazette reports an English-style boxing match between John Faulconer of Brentford and Bob Russell of Paddington. The fight was probably fought by local rules rather than London rules. Historian Elliott Gorn speculates that the reason prizefights were uncommon in eighteenth century North America was that labor was still scarce and well-paid, "and prize fighting depended on an underclass of unattached men who had little to lose by entering the ring."

In Charleston, the South Carolina Gazette posts a reward for the return of a runaway slave named Thomas Butler. Butler was said to be a "famous Pushing and Dancing Master," which suggests a practitioner of an African martial art akin to capoeira.

François de la Guérinière describes the carousel, or Continental European equestrian tournament, as "a sham combat presented by a troupe of horsemen, divided into several quadrilles [teams] in order to participate in contests for which prizes are given… When running at heads the lance, the dart, the sword and the pistol are used." The best known of these carousels is probably the one performed by the Lipizanners of the Spanish School in Vienna, and their act is both a horse ballet and an unarmored descendent of the medieval joust.


Edward Blackwell of Williamsburg, Virginia publishes The Compleat System of Fencing, the only fencing book published in the Americas during the eighteenth century. Perhaps because the American book was a plagiarism, it is often confused with Henry Blackwell’s English Fencing-Master.


In return for their promises of restraining unorganized crime, the Japanese government gives the leaders of several peddlers’ associations the privilege of wearing two swords and having a surname. (Due to the nature of their society, the Japanese have a greater fear of unorganized crime than organized crime.)

Upon retiring from the prize ring, James Figg opens a school that offered young gentlemen of the Fancy instruction in the use of the small sword, backsword, and quarterstaff. An etching attributed to William Hogarth supposedly shows Figg at this school, which was located on Oxford Road near Adam and Eve Court. In 1965 art historian Ronald Paulson showed that Hogarth did not do the etching. Instead it was a forgery done around 1794, perhaps by the daughter of publisher Samuel Ireland. Therefore, its depiction of Figg is not necessarily reliable.


English philologists divide historical time into the ancient, medieval, and modern periods. "What a cartload of bricks and rubbish and Roman ruins they have piled together," Horace Walpole complained in 1773. While a correct assessment, this cartload continues to fill introductory historical surveys.

Wealthy New Yorkers build the first enclosed racetrack in North America, and charge admission for entrance. This was not to make money, but to exclude the working classes from attendance. In both New York and London, such men also frequented private clubs and coffeehouses that increased trade by sponsoring cockfights or setting stakes for prizefights. This hurt the laboring classes, said the London Magazine, as "Tis well known that such Diversions are chiefly enjoy’d by the common People; who being fatigued by labouring continually for a sorry Living, find a Relaxation highly necessary for them." Actually, the action simply showed the increasing commercialization of popular culture.


Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania establishes the world’s first non-military municipal police force. Franklin also wrote essays explaining that his remarkable successes were due to his making all his achievements as quantifiable as possible. Therefore, he judged success in business by how much money he made, and success in science by marks on graphs and charts. In their time, these essays were read widely. Consequently, they played a significant role in shaping eighteenth century American social development.

Due to pressure from both wealthy factory owners and the clergy, the English Parliament bans all public performances that were not done inside licensed premises. This effectively restricted legalized gambling to the wealthier classes. For these people, said the London Connoisseur of May 1754, there was "nothing, however trivial or ridiculous, which is not capable of producing a bet." The British were not the only spoilsports. For example, German academics such as Johann Christoph Gottsched of Leipzig were simultaneously complaining that "the common people always derive more enjoyment from foolery and foul abuse than from serious things." Therefore they got the Harlequin banned from Leipzig streets in 1737, and Austrian streets during the 1760s.

The Virginia Gazette advertises a fair in which the winners of the wrestling matches got silver buckles, the dancing competitions got handsome shoes, the cudgel fights got twenty shillings, the fiddling competitions got violins, and the "handsomest young country maid" got a pair of silk stockings.


The Iranian conqueror Nadir Shah (actually a Turk from Khurasan) defeats the armies of the Mughul emperor Muhammad Shah. When the citizens of Delhi stone the parading Iranian forces, Nadir Shah orders his men to shoot back. Thirty thousand Indians die in the ensuing massacre. To stop the slaughter, the Indians agree to pay enormous ransoms. Among the prizes the Iranians took back with them were the Mughul peacock throne. Commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1648 and since broken up, the modern Iranian Peacock Throne is a nineteenth century imitation. The Iranians also took a huge diamond that Nadir Shah called Koh-i-Noor, or "Mountain of Light." (The allusion was to a place where Allah revealed Himself to some persevering Shiite pilgrims.) In 1526, the Mughul conqueror Babur took the stone. After seeing it, Babur handed it to his son, saying that he was uncomfortable handling a rock valued "at half the daily expense of food for the whole world."

About 1740:

Jack Broughton becomes famous for adding the lunges, lateral foot movement, and stop-blocks of German broadsword fencing to "milling," as the English called their prizefights. This said, Broughton’s favorite technique remained a hard right fist to the abdomen that his fans called "the Projectile," and later generations would know as the solar plexus knockout.

The Shoshone Indians of Idaho and Montana begin acquiring horses from their Comanche cousins. This revolutionizes northern Plains society by making men faster than buffaloes. It also leads to the Shoshone adopting iron-tipped hunting lances, shorter bows, and tactics involving mounted riders sweeping down on dismounted enemies and crushing their skulls with axes. The cinematic view of mounted Indians riding in circles around forts and wagon trains is based on nineteenth century Wild West shows. While the Comanches and Kiowa fought mounted, virtually all other Indians preferred moonlight raids on sleeping enemies, ambushes in rock-strewn passes, and zigzag rushes against prepared positions.


A West African slave called François Macandal suffers the crippling accident that frees him to become the high priest of the syncretic Haitian religion known as "voodoo." The word "voodoo" means "witchcraft" in French, and its evil reputation is owed partly to horror film directors, and mainly to its use as a unifying factor during the successful Haitian slave insurrections of the 1790s. Obviously, Macandal’s followers did not use a word meaning "witchcraft" to describe their faith, which combined elements from West African and Arawak religions with Roman Catholicism. Instead, they knew it as "serving the loa," or the multiple faces of God.

Toward reducing the risk of a slave revolt, the South Carolina legislature promulgates a legal code that prohibited people of African descent from owning "wooden swords or other dangerous weapons, or using or keeping of drums, horns, or other loud instruments which may call together, or give sign or notice to one another of their wicked designs or purposes." Without drums, the South Carolina blacks then took up self-taught fiddling, with percussion provided by sticks and spoons.

A Confucian memorialist writes that if the people of Honan Province "are not studying boxing and cudgels, prizing bravery and fierce fighting, [then] they believe in heterodox sects, worshipping Buddhas and calling on gods." In other words, to this eighteenth century scholar, ch’uan fa and religion were not related, but were instead separate paths through a world filled with poverty and injustice. This is interesting, since the Shaolin Monastery is in Honan Province.


The British begin calling their North American colonists "Americans." The reason was their creation of territorial military units for use during Admiral Edward Vernon’s ultimately unsuccessful attack against Cartegena de Indias, on Columbia’s Caribbean coast.

The Japanese scholar Tanba Juro Saemon Tadaaki, using the pen name Issai Chozan, publishes a text that contained essays on swordsmanship called "Performance Theory of Mountain Demons" (Tengu geijutsuron) and "Marvelous Skill of Cats" (Neko no myojutsu). Although the two essays proved popular and have been reprinted frequently over the years, unfortunately the modern German translation by Reinhard Kammer does not do them justice.

After one of his opponents died from injuries received in the ring, Jack Broughton starts developing rules that he hoped would make English pugilism safer. (As it was, said Broughton in a handbill published during the 1740s, boxing was simply "the most successful Method of beating a man deaf, dumb, lame, and blind.") William, Duke of Cumberland patronized him in his pursuit, and so by 1748, Broughton’s Rules were standard throughout England. For fighter safety, Broughton’s Rules prohibited hitting below the waist or after the opponent was down, introduced rounds and rest periods, and designated the starting mark as "a square of a yard chalked in the middle of a stage." At the same time, however, they still allowed fighters to slash the opponent’s legs with spiked shoes, and seconds to bring their man to his mark, whether conscious or not. In Broughton’s day, the big money rode on the side bets rather than the fighters’ salaries, and in 1750, the Duke of Cumberland lost £10,000 betting on Broughton.


In a book called New Principles of Gunnery, the English mathematician Benjamin Robins postulates that grooved gun barrels make bullets more accurate by stabilizing them in flight.


Jack Broughton introduces "mufflers," or leather gloves padded with ten-ounces of horsehair or lamb’s wool, to boxing. The reason was his establishment of a boxing school for the Fancy called the Tottenham Court Nursery. An advertisement in the Daily Advertiser for February 1, 1747 claimed that these mufflers would "effectually secure [students] from the inconveniency of black eyes, broken jaws, and bloody noses." If Broughton’s mufflers really did all this, then it meant that he was seriously pulling his punches when sparring, as gloves need to weigh at least ten ounces to significantly reduce the blunt trauma injuries resulting from boxing blows. (By way of comparison, John L. Sullivan wore five-ounce gloves during his matches, and the modern professional standard is eight.) The name "muffler" comes from cockfighting, where muffles are the covers put over fighting spurs while training the birds to fight. The practice of starting fight cards with the lightest weights first, requiring the players to start from marked positions, and fighting battles-royale, where one man had to defeat all comers to receive a prize, also come from English cockfighting. Fistic battles-royale died out during the early 1910s, partly from prizefighting reforms, and mostly because there were too many complaints about their participants prearranging the results among themselves.

Spanish scholars create the word gaucho, probably after an Araucanian word meaning "orphans," to describe the mounted hide-hunters of the Argentine pampas. The gauchos most often fought using scurrilous extemporaneous songs known as payada de contrapunto. Roy Rogers notwithstanding, most people have a hard time carrying guitars on horseback. So, to facilitate singing duels, Argentine tavern owners hung guitars on their walls. Gauchos also fought with knives. In these battles, the goal was not to kill the enemy, but to mark him by cutting his face. Gauchos’ knives, or facón, were about two feet long. They were carried in the small of the back or strapped to the calf, as this reduced the wearers’ chances of being gored during a fall from horseback. Causes of duels included alcohol abuse, women, gambling debts, and points of honor. According to W. H. Hudson, an English writer who grew up on the Argentine pampas during the 1840s, "the gaucho wrapped his poncho on his left arm to use it as a shield, and flourished his facon, or knife with a sword-like blade and a guard to the handle. This whirling about of the knife was quite an art, and had a fine look when two accomplished fighters stood up to each other and made their weapons look like shining wheels or revolving mirrors in the sun."


Commodore George Anson’s naval expedition returns to England with 4 dead to enemy action and 1,300 dead from scurvy. A Scottish physician named James Lind looks into the problem, and in 1753 publishes his findings in a book called Treatise of the Scurvy. In it, Lind said that requiring men to eat lemons could prevent scurvy. His findings were roundly ignored. In 1768, Captain James Cook orders his sailors to eat green vegetables (sauerkraut and split peas) at sea. Although with much grumbling, his men eat these unfamiliar foods, and as a result suffer no losses to scurvy. This causes new investigations and in 1795 the Royal Navy mandates a daily issue of lime juice. Still, no one knew why the lime juice worked, and as late as 1912 Captain Robert Falcon Scott of the Royal Navy, who subsisted almost entirely on prepared foods, would die of scurvy in Antarctica.

To commemorate a bout between Jack Broughton and George Stevenson in which the latter died, Paul Whitehead publishes a mock-heroic poem entitled The Gymnasiad, or Boxing Match. The match described took place in a fairground booth in London’s Tottenham Court Road in April 1741. "Down dropp’d the Hero [Stevenson], welt’ring in his Gore," wrote Whitehead, ""And his stretch’d Limbs lay quiv’ring on the Floor."

About 1745:

Asante soldiers create the martial dances known as atsiabegkor. These combined the movements of European musket drill with traditional Akan war dances.


During a battle in Flanders, the English Colonel Lord Charles Hay rides out between the French and English lines and offers a toast and three cheers for the French. Hay then returns to his lines and orders a volley fired into the French. Why did Hay do this? Because honor and reputation were more important to eighteenth century European soldiers than either rum or the lash.


English bettors start dividing boxers into light, middle, and heavy weight classes. The idea came from horse handicapping, and was designed to make odds-making more equitable.


King Frederick II of Prussia writes a series of secret instructions for his generals. A copy is captured by the Austrians in 1760 and quickly translated into German and English. (Frederick, a civilized man, always wrote in French.) The Instruction of Frederick the Great for His Generals was widely read by Continental officers during the American Revolution. But for his imagery Frederick looked back as well as forwards, and in 1750 he staged a carrousel in Berlin that featured knights organized as Romans, Persians, Carthaginians, and Greeks who ran at rings and "Turks’ heads" with lances, and pranced along. In other words, he staged a tournament.

Captain John Godfrey of London publishes A Treatise Upon the Useful Science of Defence Connecting the Small and Back Sword With Some Observations Upon Boxing, and the Characters of the Most Able Boxers Within the Author’s Time. As the title suggests, the book describes the close relationships between the postures of broadsword fencing and English boxing. In it, Godfrey, who had trained with Figg and penned Broughton’s Rules, said that boxing’s "most hurtful Blows" were delivered under the ear at the angle of the lower jaw, between the eyebrows, and into the pit of the stomach, as the solar plexus was then known. While there were no defenses against the first two blows except agile movement and a strong left arm ("which is a Kind of Buckler"), the effects of stomach punching could be mitigated somewhat by bending forward while tightening the belly and holding the breath.

Following Prince Charlie’s Rebellion, the English Parliament bans the Scots from wearing traditional clothes, playing traditional music, or owning lethal weapons. This effectively ends sword-and-buckler fighting in Scotland. As the penalty for gun ownership was summary execution, old Scottish firearms are now exceedingly rare. But, as the parliamentary bans did not extend to Highland regiments in English service, they also gave rise to kilts differentiated by clan tartan, plus most regimental bagpipe marches.


Betting on cudgel-playing and single-stick fighting is described as a popular sport among English gentlemen. In singlestick, players held three-foot long sticks in their right hands. These sticks often had basket hilts to protect the wearer’s hand from injury. Left elbows were tied to the players’ belts to keep them from being used to block. In quarterstaff, the sticks were about seven feet long. The lower hand was placed about a foot from the bottom, and the upper hand was placed about halfway up. The stick was then twirled in the hands. In both games, footwork was minimal, as movement was considered cowardice. Although matches were fought to the first blood, the risk of serious injury does not appear to have been especially high for professional fighters. Contemporaries suspected that this was because the professionals fixed their fights.

As London night watchmen were notoriously old and blind, the Bow Street magistrate Henry Fielding hires half a dozen "thief catchers" to solve local crimes. Known as the Bow Street Runners, these were England’s first private detectives.

Because the game was played in fields and caused damage to fences and crops, Chilean priests ask their government to ban a rural game called pato ("duck"). This game involved teams of horsemen fighting over a live duck stuffed into a four-handled rawhide sack. The game was too popular for bans to work, and the end of the game only came after intricate rules and level playing fields were introduced during the 1890s.

About 1750:

Unskilled British laborers fleeing indentured servitude on Virginia and Carolina tidelands tobacco plantations escape into the tall timber of the Appalachian Mountains. There they learned to raise corn, chew tobacco, and build mud-and-log cabins from the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Shawnee Indians. Descendants of these people included the notorious Hatfields and McCoys.

Swiss gunsmiths install front sights adjustable for windage and elevation on large target crossbows. These sights made the weapons highly accurate to nearly 80 yards.

An Okinawan merchant named Yara Chatan travels to Fukien Province. There he spent several years studying some form of southern Shaolin boxing. In Okinawa: Island of Karate, George Alexander says that Yara studied an internal boxing style called hsing-i ("Mind Boxing"). Alexander is probably mistaken. First, hsing-i was popular mostly with Muslim convoy guards. These guards came from northwestern China. They used martial arts mostly for keeping carriers from pilfering and shirking. Their style was unknown in southern China before 1840, and was rare before 1949. (While historian Frederic Wakeman says that hsing-i appeared in Kwangtung Province during the 1840s, Robert W. Smith’s Taiwanese friends told him that inner boxing was rare in southern China before 1949.) So if there are any direct links between karate and hsing-i -- and I doubt that there are -- then they would date to the mid-1920s instead of the 1750s, and to Chinese military combatives such as Yunnan Consecutive Step Boxing rather than classical hsing-i. Probably what Alexander (or his source) did was mistake White Crane ch’uan fa, which did influence Okinawan boxing in the nineteenth century, for hsing-i.

The English start using the word "police" to describe foot patrols dispatched to prevent crime rather than spies and agents provocateurs.


After betting Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, £1000 at ten-to-one odds that a 46-year old Jack Broughton could beat the 29-year old Jack Slack (and losing), Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, orders the local magistrate to close Broughton’s boxing school. A decent boxer when he wanted to be, Slack’s favorite technique was a chop to the carotids known as "the Cleaver." As Slack worked as a rabbit butcher, the technique became known as a rabbit punch.

Hannah Snell becomes a featured speaker at the New Wells Spa in London. Snell’s claim to fame was that she had served as British soldier during the siege of Pondicherry in India.


Female entertainers begin appearing in Japanese stage productions. Originally these were working-class women who had saved enough money to buy their way out of brothels. Crib-style prostitutes were far more common than geisha, who were middle and upper class women trained in singing and dancing rather than sex acts. For example, there were 1,300 licensed prostitutes and 73 geisha working in Naha, Okinawa (a city of less than 30,000 people) in 1893. There were also another 1,400 unlicensed prostitutes working in and around the city. These numbers tripled with the American occupation of Okinawa following World War II, and by 1972, prostitution was Okinawa’s chief non-military source of income. Following Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972, the prostituted women became Filipinas or Thais instead of Okinawan, and the customers became Japanese businessmen as well as American servicemen. Otherwise nothing changed. Such economic dependency on prostitution is not unique to Okinawa. In 1977, for instance, massage parlors and escort services accounted for 27.2% of London’s foreign earnings from the tourist trade. Anyway, as Japanese men called crib-style prostitutes neko, or "pussy," the Japanese martial art stance known as neko ashi dachi, and usually translated as "cat stance," is probably better translated as "the whore’s stance." Why? Because the stance resembles the way crib-style prostitutes cantilevered their hips and thrust out their ankles to attract business. Picture Mae West purring, "Why don’t you come up some time and see me," and you’ve got the idea.

About 1755:

Japanese school fencers begin using face and body armor. According to the Shigei enkakuo of 1831, masks designed to protect the eyes came first. Next came padded helmets and arm protectors. Finally bamboo breast protectors were developed. These in turn developed into what are now helmets (men), breast protectors (do), and gauntlets (kote). About the same time, bamboo swords (fukuro-shinai) also came into use. The latter development probably came as the result of peasant participation in fairground battles, but could have included merchants’ sons wanting to make their swordplay as visually exciting as the swordplay seen in bunraku, or Japanese puppet theater. (These puppet sword battles used exploding heads and beet juice for special effects, and are an ancestor of the chanbara, or samurai movie.) Either way, pioneers in the popularization of teaching swordsmanship using shinai and armor rather than kata included the Itto-ryu swordsman Nakanishi Chuzo Tsugutake and the Shin-kage-ryu swordsman Naganuma Shirozaemon Kunisato.

Toward reducing the risk of accidental blinding, metal masks pierced by eyeholes are introduced to Parisian fencing salles. But, said Richard Burton, "To put on a mask was to show the adversary that you feared the result of his awkwardness; it was a precaution that bordered on the offensive." Furthermore, tin masks were uncomfortable and unstylish. As a result, they do not become popular until a more stylish and comfortable wire mesh mask was developed, perhaps by Texier de la Boëssière père, during the 1780s.


An Okinawan youth named Sakugawa Satunushi learns cudgeling from a Chinese merchant living near Shuri. Sakugawa later played a key role in codifying Okinawan Shuri-te karate.

In his famous dictionary, Samuel Johnson conjugates the English word "box." As a noun it meant a blow on the head given with the hand, while as a verb it meant to fight or strike with the fist. A boxer, meanwhile, was "a man who fights with the fist." The word also appeared in Irish Gaelic, where it became boiscín, and referred to both fighting with the hands and sparring with sticks. Johnson’s knowledge of the term may be considered intimate, as his uncle, Andrew Johnson, ran a prizefighting booth at Smithfield during fairs.


The memoirs of a Japanese merchant named Tobe Ryoen mention an Okinawan martial art called Ryukyu kenpo. Although otherwise undefined, this is the first known Japanese reference to any distinctively Okinawan martial art.

The earliest known autobiography of an English boxer, Memoirs of the Noted Buckhorse, is printed in London. Buckhorse, whose real name was John Smith, was active from 1732 to 1746. He was never much of a boxer, and reportedly earned his living picking pockets and singing in the streets (it is said that he "sucked in the love of gin" from his first nurse). In 1767 Buckhorse was also the subject of an ode by Christopher Anstey; this too celebrated the man about town rather than the pugilist.


By defeating a 50,000-man Mughul army outside Bombay, 3,000 British and Indian soldiers under the command of Robert Clive establish the Honourable East India Company as the paramount military power in India. Clive’s success was owed partly to his well-drilled musketeers killing more efficiently than the Nawab of Bengal’s freewheeling lancers, and mainly to the Nawab’s French artillerists failing to keep their powder dry during an unexpected rainstorm.

Gamblers and grifters living in Fukien and Kwangtung Province create the crime syndicates known to outsiders as Triads, after the three dots that members used as gang signs, and to insiders as the Tian-ti Hui, or Heaven-and-Earth Societies. Regional bosses, who were usually wealthy older men, were known as sinseh ("ritual specialist") or shifu ("teacher"). Bosses were assisted by an Elder Brother who supervised operations, a Second Brother who kept the books, and a Third Brother who led the hung-kun, or "Red Poles." The latter were organizational fighters, the youths –average age was in the late teens -- that foreigners called boo how doy, a phrase meaning "bad boys" but usually translated as "hatchet men." These youths were rarely orthodox (cheng) boxers. Instead, in the words of the nineteenth century Malay triad leader Ho Ah-kay, they were simply gangs in the employ of brothel owners and gamblers. They amused themselves by looting, fighting, and attending violent stage and puppet plays. Comparable organizations existed in Europe. According to an English book of 1658 called The Devil’s Cabinet Broke Open, London gangs were commanded by captains, novices were tested and trained, and robbers, cheats, and cutpurses all carried different signs. Like the Chinese, the English criminals fought with the authorities whenever they attempted to invade an established sanctuary such as Whitefriars, Smithfield, or the Bankside. Barring such unifying invasions, the criminals acted independently. Both Chinese and English criminals were youthful, organized in gangs of 20-30 members, and preyed mostly on prostitutes, shop-owners, and drunks.


The Swiss jurist Emmerich de Vattel revises Huigh de Groot’s laws of war. He calls the result The Law of Nations. Vattel specifically excluded battles against American Indians, black Africans, and Barbary corsairs from consideration. Why? Because, in Vattel’s words, Right "goes hand in hand with necessity."

Lessons learned during the Seven Years War cause the British to issue rifles to the ten best marksmen in each of their North American battalions. They also started letting officers assigned to those units carry hatchets instead of swords. During this same war, near Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, the British also made the world’s first opposed amphibious assault landing, and by building fortified roads across Western Pennsylvania, they also reintroduced war by logistics instead of heroics. Of course, these were merely conceptual beginnings. Logistics, for instance, did not really start mattering to European generals until the American Civil War, or amphibious assault landings until after the Japanese unveiled purpose-built landing craft and landing craft carriers at Shanghai in 1937.

An Italian fencer named Domenico Angelo Malevolti Tremanmondo comes to London, where he soon attracts the interest of the Fancy. After defeating an Irish duelist of little ability but great strength named Keys, he opened a fencing salle known as Angelo’s on Carlisle Street. With financial support from his patrons, who included Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, he also set about producing a magnificently illustrated fencing manual called L’École des Armes ("The School of Arms;" first French edition, 1763, first English edition, 1765). His sons and grandsons were also competent fencers, and members of the family continued teaching foil fencing in London until 1864. But, as their competence was solely in dismounted fencing, their suggestions regarding cavalry techniques were ludicrous. For example, during the Napoleonic Wars Angelo’s son Henry published a book that showed cavalrymen fencing side-by-side on horseback. The inspiration for this foolishness was not anyone’s army but instead the Continental equestrian techniques performed at Philip Astley’s London circus. Real cavalrymen were of course never so stupid. "I, myself, as an ex-cavalryman who participated in cavalry charges during the First World War," sputtered Vladimir Littauer, "can assure you that the success of an attack does not depend on refinements of equitation but rather on the moment being rightly chosen." As for his swordsmanship in the melee, Lieutenant George S. Patton Jr. showed in a 1913 article in The Journal of the U. S. Cavalry Association, that the most efficient method was for the cavalrymen to lay alongside their horses’ necks with their sword arms extended and the back of their hands turned slightly to the left for maximum reach. This position reduced their silhouette, let them use their horses’ heads as aiming devices, and most importantly, put the full momentum of 900-pound animals doing 20 miles an hour into their thrusts.

About 1759:

A book called Outline of Arms and Techniques through Diagrams is published in Korea. The author wrote in classical Chinese, and was named Cheok Gye-gwang. As the author’s name is the Korean pronunciation of Ch’i Chi-kuang, the text was unsurprisingly a Korean reprint of the sixteenth century Chinese text. Be that as it may, the handful of boxing techniques shown in the book appear to have been borrowed from northern Shaolin ch’uan fa. Emphasis was placed on learning the 40 different vital points. Strong strikes to these points were said to impede breathing, paralyze muscles, damage circulation, and cause shock. According to the text, these strikes worked best against an opponent who had lost his balance or was tired.


Mary Lacy, a runaway serving girl who served twelve years in the Royal Navy, gets in a fight aboard HMS Sandwich. "I went aft to the main hatchway and pulled off my jacket," wrote Lacy, "but they wanted me to pull off my shirt, which I would not suffer for fear of it being discovered that I was a woman, and it was with much difficulty that I could keep it on." The fight then developed into a wrestling match. "During the combat," said Lacy, "he threw me such violent cross-buttocks ... [as] were almost enough to dash my brains out." But by "a most lucky circumstance" she won the bout, and afterwards she "reigned master over all the rest" of the ship’s boys.

About 1760:

Prejudiced by the English aristocracy, which despised anything associated with Ireland, Scottish antiquaries create the myth of Celtic Scotland. (Culturally, Scotland is more Irish and Norse than Celtic.) Key figures in the creation of this myth included John and James Macpherson, who invented a third century bard named Ossian, and then forged translations of his poetry.

According to an Englishman named John Carter, the outdoor attractions during Saint James’ Fair in London included booths for boxers, jugglers, and exhibitors of wild beasts. Animal-baiting, women’s foot-racing, and drinking were also popular. Since Saint James’ Fair lasted from May 1 to May 15, everyone called it May Fair. The venue was Shepherd’s Market on Curzon Street in, unsurprisingly, Mayfair.


Eliezer Besht, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, dies.

About 1761:

The martial art of the Ryukyuan royal bodyguard starts to be called tode. While Terence Dukes speculates that the name refers to a Chinese-born teacher of O Mei Shan boxing named Chu To-te, I suspect that it has more to do with the Ryukyuan word tee, meaning "hands." Either way, most Okinawans said the name meant "Chinese hands."


After beating Jack Slack then losing a fixed fight to an unknown named Georgie Meggs, the London prizefighter Bill "the Nailer" Stevens says: "Why, Lord bless you, the day I fought Jack Slack I got 90 guineas; but I got 50 more than I should otherwise have done by letting Georgy Meggs lick me. And, dam’me, ain’t I the same man still?" As for Georgie Meggs, he was the first of a long line of Bristol champions that included the Belchers, Hen Pearce, Will Warr, and Hooper the Tinman. The reason for Bristol’s success as a boxing town was that its theaters, which were popular with the Fancy, paid pugilists up to ten guineas a week to hold boxing exhibitions. In 1817, there was some spirited debate in the English press about whether Shakespeare or pugilism should rule the Bristol stage. The outcome was a compromise: first the Bard, then the boxing.

Gunpowder factories are built in Nepal. This was part of the military reforms of the Gurkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah, who was busy replacing his army’s bamboo shields and spears with English muskets, Mughul bows, and Nepalese khukuris. Narayan Shah’s soldiers were mostly Thakuri, Khasa, Magar, and Gurung mountaineers. Their courage and discipline were so good that, after defeating them in 1813, the British immediately began enlisting them in the Indian Army. Nepalese troops still served in the armies of Borneo, Britain, and India into the twenty-first century. They were not precisely mercenaries, as they served in their own regiments, and usually valued reputation more than money. (For many North Indians and Nepalese, a warrior continues to have higher status than does a merchant. Therefore honor and reputation are worth more to them than money. Not that money lacks importance, it just that it isn’t as important as honor and reputation.)


Sophia Augusta Frederika, the future Catherine the Great, leads the overthrow of her husband’s government while wearing the red and green uniform of a Czarist cavalry officer. "For a man’s work," the German-born princess wrote afterwards, "you needed a man’s outfit."


An anonymous British author publishes The Reign of George VI, 1900-1925. While the wars described bore more relation to the War of Spanish Succession than either the Second South African War or the Great War, The Reign of George VI remains the first book to describe future warfare as a function of mass nationalism.

In a letter to Colonel Henry Bouquet, commander of the British forces in Western Pennsylvania, Governor General Jeffrey Amherst suggests sending smallpox-infested blankets to the Delaware and Shawnee Indians besieging Fort Pitt. Because live-virus inoculation had been introduced into England from Turkey fifty years earlier, and because the British were not averse to killing Indians any way they could, this is often cited as example of eighteenth century biological warfare. However, inasmuch as the American settlers were more terrified of smallpox than of Indians, and as the British Army did not begin giving smallpox vaccinations until 1775, Amerhest’s actions are not biological warfare, but instead ecological imperialism. The term "ecological imperialism" comes from a book of that title by Alfred W. Crosby, and refers to using familiar plants and animals to reshape a foreign environment into more usable by one’s own kind or culture. Biological warfare, on the other hand, is the dark side of nineteenth and twentieth century epidemiological research. Biological warfare has two major assumptions. First, one should know how a disease is spread. Second, one must have a practical way of keeping the disease from killing one’s own people and livestock. The absence of the second condition is one reason why Amherst’s case is not biological warfare. (It is also a partial reason why the British discontinued research into anthrax in 1943 – they couldn’t stop its spread.) Consequently, modern biological warfare was impossible before the late nineteenth century. The Japanese used typhoid against the Soviets in 1939 and tried to use plague and cholera against the Americans on Saipan in 1944 and Okinawa in 1945, but had little success, mostly because of problems with delivery systems. (The infamous balloon bombs of World War II were just one of the Japanese efforts in this direction.) Since then, delivery methods have improved, and during the 1990s, the Soviets suggested using the Novichok series of non-persistent binary biotoxins as a replacement for nerve agents, which are unstable in long-term storage.

Ojibwa and Sauk Indians use a lacrosse game to lure fifteen British soldiers and traders to their deaths outside Fort Michilimackinac, Michigan. Lacrosse, which was given white man’s rules upon being declared Canada’s national sport in 1867, was originally a martial art rather than a sport, and was used mainly to settle clan or tribal disputes. (One name for lacrosse meant "younger brother of war.") The Woodland Indians also used wrestling as a way of settling personal disputes, especially those involving women or goods. Woodland Indian wrestling had no recorded rules except prohibitions against hair-pulling, and it was left to Protestant missionaries to introduce prohibitions against choking and bone-breaking during the 1840s. Victory in Woodland Indian wrestling consisted of using upper body strength to throw the opponent to the ground. Therefore, the sport was perhaps similar to sumo or Cumberland wrestling.

British gentlemen are described as carrying swords, oak cudgels, and raucous horns to London plays. The horns, or catcalls, were used to disrupt disliked players or politically offensive scripts, while the cudgels were used to fight off the paid clappers, muscular bouncers, and armed guards that theater owners hired to prevent such interruptions. (It was not coincidental that Pierce Egan, author of the fistic masterpiece called Boxiana; Or Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism, was also the author of a now-forgotten book called Life of an Actor.)


To reduce expenses, the members of England’s Royal Company of Archers begin shooting feather-filled glass balls instead of the eyes of live geese buried up to their necks in dirt.

Richard Carew of London publishes The Survey of Cornwall. In it, he describes contemporary English wrestling in detail. According to Carew, Cornwall wrestlers wore short jackets, and gripped one another’s sleeve and shoulders as in modern judo. A standard trick involved trapping the right arm and then backheel tripping. The Cornwall style was called "in-play." Devonshire wrestlers wore straw shinguards and clogs, and were allowed to kick one another in the shins. Otherwise their techniques were similar to Cornwall wrestlers. The Devonshire style was called "in-play." Unlike the other two styles, Lancashire wrestlers wore only underwear and the players started well apart with their knees bent and hands outstretched. While kicking, hair-pulling, pinching, and the twisting of arms and fingers were prohibited, most anything else went, even the "Full Nelson" hold to the neck. (The name "Full Nelson" dates to the early nineteenth century, and refers to the enveloping tactics used by the famous admiral at the Battle of the Nile and Trafalgar.) Lancashire wrestling was also known as "catch-as-catch-can," and is an ancestor of international free-style.

The Spanish prohibit Filipino peasants from owning daggers or swords. Modern writers have speculated that this ban caused working-class Filipinos to subsequently practice their arnis using fire-hardened rattan sticks. But as anti-government rebels rarely trouble had finding machetes or the occasional firearm, this story requires some external verification before being trusted.


The British Lieutenant Henry Timberlake provides the first good description of a Woodland Indian war dance. According to Timberlake, these dances were dedicated to the god Thunder. The man who wanted to raise a war party first raised a skinned pole in the center of the village. He struck that pole with his club and danced around it while recounting his brave deeds. If other men decided to join him, they stepped forward, struck the pole, and began dancing and reciting. If no one stepped forward, then the would-be warrior had to find his recruits elsewhere.

During a prizefight on Moorfields Street in London, a Swiss coachman named Phil Juchau dies after hitting his head on a paving stone following a cross-buttock throw. The winning fighter was an English butcher named Jack Warren. Warren received £10 for his efforts.

A Parisian fencing master named Guillaume Danet publishes a book called Art des Armes ("Art of Fencing"). This is the first fencing manual known to have forbidden parries with the left hand. It also renounced the pass and disarm as techniques that sullied the purity of his techniques. The basis for such ideas was probably ballet or related court dances.


Near Ningpo, in Chekiang Province, a few dozen mountain villagers recite incantations, dance wildly, and invoke the protection of a T’ang Dynasty general they learned about by watching stage plays. This makes them China’s first known Spirit Boxers (shen ch’uan). Yet, while Spirit Boxers were prominent during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, there is nothing except a shared name and belief in spirit-possession to link these mountain villagers with their more famous descendants.

In London, the father of a left-handed legal clerk named William Hickey tells his son, "Change hands, sir: surely you cannot suppose [the fencing master] Mr. Telligori will attempt to instruct a left-handed fellow." But the Italian replied, "Oh yes, I will, sir, and recommend you by all means to let him so be taught; for as a manly exercise and accomplishment, the effect will be precisely the same."

About 1767:

According to eight lines in a Burmese chronicle, a Thai boxer named Nai Khanom Tom defeats several Burmese boxers and thereby earns his release from a Burmese prisoner of war camp near Rangoon. Nai is subsequently made a Thai national hero, and to this day, Thai boxers celebrate March 17 as Nai Kahnom Tom Day. Obviously Burmese are less enthusiastic about this story (their version has Nai ingratiating his way out of camp), and it is certainly worth noting that during the eighteenth century the Burmese military successes owed more to spears and firearms than boxing prowess. Be that as it may, Burma’s Kachin, Karen, Shan, and Wa people had boxing matches and sword dances known today as thaing ("self-defense") or lai ka ("fight dance"). Major competitions were held four times a year near the town of Moulmein. Contestants were graded according to their experience. That is, there were divisions for youths, novices, intermediates, and professionals. In the sparring divisions of Burmese boxing, head butts and throws were allowed but kicks to the groin and hair pulling were not. As in Thai boxing, the fighting was often accompanied by music, gambling, and drinking.


A Danish military ski race held in Norway offers prizes to anyone who can without riding or resting on their ski stick ski down the steepest slope without falling. In the eighteenth century, skis were restricted almost solely to Norway, and were made of solid wood. Using two light skis instead of a large walking stick only developed during the late nineteenth century. The usual way of going down steep slopes was therefore by squatting on the boards and then holding the stick between the legs. Waxing skis for use in varying snow conditions was another late nineteenth century development. Things tried to make boards slipperier included melted pine pitch, tallow, candle wax, and cheese.

Prussian studies show that an infantry battalion could fire five shots in volley per minute, at an average rate of about two rounds per man per minute. While this put as much lead into the air as a modern machine gun, it did not mean that the fusillade hit as much, as during another musketry test conducted in 1813, another Prussian test battalion put just 40% of its shots into a target 6 feet high and 100 feet long at a range of 100 yards. This was not just the Prussians, either, as contemporary British tests showed that to hit a target 11’6" high and 6’ wide at 200 yards range with a Brown Bess, a shooter had to aim 5-1/2 feet high. Fired from a rest at 250 yards, 10 shots out of 10 missed. Fired from the same rest at 150 yards, 5 shots out of 10 missed. Effective range against people was less than 40 yards. Pennsylvania rifles, on the other hand, could put five bullets into a 2" group at 100 yards, and knock down horses at 400. Rifles also weighed half as much as Tower muskets, and used less lead and powder. But they remained expensive, fragile, and subject to problems with fouling.

The Spanish government expels the Jesuits from South America. The reasons included the Jesuits being too successful at protecting the South American Indians from Brazilian slavers and Spanish landowners.

The Mexican cavalrymen guarding Spanish Texas are described as proud, muscular men dressed in buckskins. Their equipment included long spurs, broad swords, and short carbines. They sat in heavy Spanish saddles ringed with bells and rested their feet in ponderous metal stirrups. Yet their appearance was far more fearsome than their demeanor, as they used their carbines mostly as tent poles, and greatly preferred hunting wild cattle and tame Indians with lassos to chasing Comanches across the Staked Plains.

Chinese authorities complain of kai-fei, or beggar-bandits, taking what they wanted by force, and then resisting arrest using rocks, fists, and clubs. As many, perhaps most, Chinese beggars dressed like mendicant monks to improve their chances of receiving largesse, these kai-fei are a likely source of inspiration for subsequent stories about Taoist and Buddhist fighting monks, especially since most police reports talked about professional boxers teaching martial arts to priests, not priests teaching martial arts to professional boxers.


During a national sorcery scare, Chinese officials search some sectarian temples and torture some beggars, and then declare the problem solved. Removed from context and combined with stories about concurrent Fukienese lineage feuds, these events may provide a root for the many subsequent stories describing how the Chinese government forced Taoist fighting monks to sack Shaolin monasteries in Honan and Fukien Province. Technically speaking, while there is no archaeological evidence of a Shaolin temple in Fukien Province, there was a temple near Amoy dedicated to Kuan-ti, the God of War. This temple, which was known as Wu-miao-ssu, or "war temple," was popular with people from all classes, and its lay leaders may have taught martial arts in return for donations. The rates for eighteenth century martial art instruction averaged 100 to 400 cash up front, plus another 200 to 4,000 cash quarterly. (One hundred cash was a day’s wages for an unskilled agricultural laborer.) While students usually had just one teacher at a time, the practice of having many masters in succession was common. The boxer Chang Lo-chiao, for instance, studied boxing, fencing, and massage from his elder sister’s uncle during the 1780s, chi kung from Chang Huai-chan during the 1790s, and Li Trigram boxing from Wang Hsien-chun during the early 1800s. As for the religious nature of the boxers themselves, note that the White Lotus boxer Feng Ke-shan was a frequenter of wine-shop, inn, and market fair, and was notorious for using his skills to collect debts owed to his gambling associates. Accordingly, whatever temple boxing clubs there were probably had more in common with the Kronk Recreation Center of inner-city Detroit than the Shaolin temple of Master Po and Kwai Chang Caine. This said, an equally plausible source is the simultaneous destruction of the Grand Canal Boatman’s Lodge in Kiangsu Province. This Lodge, known as "Friends of the Way of Tranquillity and Purity," was organized along Buddhist monastic lines, and served as a hostel for unemployed river boatmen. And, if these Chinese boatmen were as feisty as was the rip-roaring, alligator-fighting, American Mike Fink, then one can see a possible source of inspiration for tales of rip-roaring, dragon-slaying, north Chinese fighting monks. ("Superhuman powers are also a recurrent feature of outlaw biography," says historian Peter Burke. Why? Because "whatever was outside the experience of everyday people demanded an explanation in terms of the marvelous.")

Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, starts awarding silver-plated cups to the owners of champion racehorses. Six years later, he starts awarding similar cups to the owners of champion racing yachts. A crude man, the duke often drank substantial libations from the cups before giving them away.

After disguising herself as a boy and shipping out with the French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, Jeanne Baré becomes the first female to circumnavigate the world. Women also served in the British Navy. These women avoided discovery because European seamen seldom bathed and invariably slept in their clothes.

In the Clerkenwell district of London (perhaps at the London Spa), two female prizefighters mill for a prize of a dress valued at half-a-crown, while another two women fight against two men for a prize of a guinea apiece. And at Wetherby’s on Little Russell Street, the 19-year old rake William Hickey saw "two she-devils . . . engaged in a scratching and boxing match, their faces entirely covered with blood, bosoms bare, and the clothes nearly torn from them." These "she-devils" were singers and prostitutes, and their pre-fight preparation consisted mostly of drinking more gin than usual. Other rough venues included the Dog and Duck in St. George’s Fields, Bagnigge Wells on King’s Cross Road, and White Conduit House near Islington.


An English inventor named William Watts develops a method for manufacturing consistently-sized, almost perfectly round, lead shot. (The process involved drilling holes in an iron plate, then putting the plate on a tower above a barrel of water and pouring molten lead through the holes into the water below.) As a result, shot patterns began improving dramatically, and by 1785 custom gunmakers such as Joseph Manton were making double-barreled breech-loading shotguns that were able to use the new shot most efficiently. Nevertheless, most shot continued to be fired from muzzle-loading muskets into the 1840s, when manufacturing advances finally resulted in breech-loading mechanisms that did not routinely vent their hot smoke and gas directly into shooters’ faces.

Captain James Cook and his men introduce potatoes and corn into New Zealand. Eight years later, they return with rabbits and goats. The ecological damage caused by these foreign introductions far outweighed the ten British citizens -- nine white and one black -- that the Maoris killed and ate in March 1770.

Bull fighting is described as a popular game on Anjouan, in the Comoros Islands. The Comoran sport, called ngoma ya nyombe ("dance of the bulls"), involved four or five young men goading small bulls with large cloths. The crowds cheered the man brave enough to dodge the animal’s charge using adroit footwork, and jeered the knave who ran. In modern times, Comoran bull fighting is associated mostly with marriage rituals.

While dining with a wealthy Chinese merchant in Canton – from 1757 to 1842, Canton was the only Chinese port authorized to trade with foreigners – the English rake William Hickey sees "the most capital fighting exhibited, with better dancing and music than I could have expected." Given the status of his host, he was probably seeing an exhibition of popular rather than formal Chinese theater, probably of the kind that during the next century would become known as the Peking Opera. "Generally speaking," James Liu wrote in The Knight-Errant, "the chief interest of chivalric plays in the Peking Theatre lies in stage fighting. A typical knight-errant on the stage must possess an imposing appearance and be able to engage in sword fights with lightning speed and hair-splitting precision. He is commonly a ‘military man’ (wu-sheng)… though he may be cast as a … ‘military clown’ (wu-ch’uo). He usually wears tight-fitting jacket and trousers, colourful or plain black (the latter kind used specially for night sorties), with low boots, a soft cap or a hat decorated with pom-poms, and sometimes a rich cloak which he throws off with great flourish before fighting. He fights on foot, with a sword, rather than on horseback, with a spear or halberd."

About 1770:

Japanese illustrators make pornographic wood-block prints showing rapists and assassins dressed in black. The artists’ inspiration was probably the all-black uniforms worn by bunraku puppeteers, who were by convention invisible on stage. As for real eighteenth century assassins, they usually wore everyday clothing colored in mottled rust and brown patterns. Not only were such clothes less obvious on the street, but they also did a better job of breaking up patterns and silhouettes. (Invisibility, by the way, depends more upon standing still than upon camouflage. If you doubt this, compare a chickadee, which has wonderful natural coloration but cannot stand still for a moment, with a Bengal tiger, which has fair camouflage but exceptional patience. The human record for standing without moving, by the way, is over fifteen hours.)

The Swiss make stopwatches that divide seconds into fifths. The reason was that English horse racers wanted to know split times.

About 1771:

A White Lotus sectarian named Wang Lun teaches his disciples two things. First, skill in boxing would protect them from swords and spears. Second, magical incantations would protect them from musketry and archery. "If I call on Heaven, Heaven will assist me; If I call on Earth, Earth will give me magical strength," said Wang. Although a staunchly millenarian view, it was made credible by local militia units whose leadership, weapons, training, pay, and morale were horrible. Unfortunately, Manchu banner units were something else. When Wang Lun’s White Lotus rebels met bannermen in 1777, said a rebel later, "The soldiers fired their guns and bows. Wang Fu-lin and the others were shot; many people were wounded. I did not watch the fight. I held the incense and called on Heaven, but there were no divine results, so I fled."


According to a Scottish traveler named James Bruce, the army of Ras Mikael of Tigré (an Ethiopian province bordering Somalia) included one musketeer per pair of shielded pikemen. It also had a corps of armored Sudanese cavalry mounted on both horses and camels. Women accompanied the Ethiopian men on campaign. Some women participated in the battles themselves. This pattern continues into the present. For example, a painting of an Ethiopian victory over the Italians in 1896 done in the 1940s shows the Emperor’s wife carrying a revolver, while photographs of Ethiopian military campaigns of the 1980s show women manning machine-guns and artillery pieces.

A French fencing master named Olivier, whose Fleet Street school was a favorite of British lawyers, publishes a bilingual text called Fencing Familiarised. In it, Olivier encouraged civilized behavior from his students. Shouts and exclamations, for instance, were not tolerated, as "they serve only to fatigue the stomach, and deafen the spectators." Meanwhile, in East Asia, shouts and ritual breathing methods were viewed as almost magical keys to success. For example, some nineteenth and twentieth century Japanese fencing masters discounted blows that were not accompanied by a shout; the exact phrase they used was kiai wo kakeru, meaning "to utter the spirit-shout." Chinese boxers also liked loud war cries and esoteric breathing methods. The White Lotus rebel Wang Lun, for instance, taught his civil students to practice breathing, fasting, and meditation, and his military students to practice boxing and cudgels.


Jean-Joseph Marie Amiot, a Jesuit missionary to the Chinese Imperial court at Peking, translates Sun Tzu’s Art of War into French. According to tradition, the Corsican artillery officer Napoleon Bonaparte subsequently read this somewhat free translation (Amiot did not always distinguish between what Sun wrote and what commentators wrote) with interest. Father Amiot is also remembered for his Manchu dictionary and sending a Chinese mouth organ to Europe that contributed to the development of the harmonica and the accordion.

The English gunmaker Henry Nock opens the shop that, in 1887, becomes Wilkinson Sword Ltd. While Nock made firearms, his partner James Wilkinson inherited the business in 1805, and Wilkinson’s son Henry started making swords in 1840. Hence the name.

About 1773:

Matchlocks obtained from French Canadian, Iroquois, and Afro-Indian fur traders appear in Alberta and Saskatchewan. (There were many runaway slaves living among the Cree and the Iroquois.) Despite Wild West shows and movies that show mounted Indians firing wildly into the air, the Canadian Indians shot their firearms from the prone supported position whenever possible. Partly this was because powder and lead were too expensive for the Indians to waste them on trick shots. (When possible, the Blackfeet preferred gut-shooting people at powder-burning ranges, where hits were always incapacitating and usually fatal.) Mostly, though, it was because their trade muskets were slow to reload and best used during prepared ambushes. As late as 1913, most horsemen interested in hitting their targets either got very, very close or dismounted to fire. Wrote a United States cavalry officer named J. A. Cole in the Cavalry Journal, "I hit something from a horse with a carbine, once, and thought I was on the verge of great discoveries. Sedulous effort and much of Uncle’s ammunition failed to score another hit; so I am constrained to the belief that so far as certain individuals go there is little future in such practice."

Protestant missionaries join Roman Catholics in proselytizing Woodland Indians. The preachers often came from Moor’s Charity School in New Hampshire, the future Dartmouth College.


The Tay Son brothers start a Vietnamese civil war that lasts until 1801. Tay Son military training, known as Vo Tay Son, taught eighteen bladed weapons, but was best known for its aggressive swordsmanship. Chinese influence is possible, as the system has been called Vietnamese ch’uan fa. Another Vietnamese system of the era was Kim Ke, or Golden Cock. As the name implies, Kim Ke was based on cockfighting, and as a result featured aggressive high kicks to the head. Here muay Thai influence is possible, as the Nguyen family that eventually occupied the Vietnamese capital of Hué received considerable military aid from Siam.

The merchants of Britain’s Honourable East India Company begin buying Chinese tea using chests of Bengal opium instead of Latin American silver. Within a century, this decision has enriched Britain and utterly destabilized the Manchu government and the Chinese economy.

After King George III personally intervenes on his behalf, a London inventor named John Harrison collects the balance of a £20,000 prize offered by Parliament for the manufacture of a highly accurate and reliable marine chronometer. (The goal was to determine maritime longitude to within a mile, which made shipwreck less likely.) Unfortunately, such devices were too expensive and fragile for general issue, and the mathematical calculations were tedious. Therefore chronometers, sextants, and navigators capable of using them remained rare until after the publication of Nathaniel Bowditch’s New American Practical Navigator in 1802.

Pierre Simon de Laplace produces mathematical theorems proving that the moon’s gravitational attraction causes tidal fluctuations. To the disgust of the French Academy of Science, these proofs supported Isaac Newton rather than René Descartes. (For the French, explained Voltaire in 1728, "it is the pressure of the moon that causes the tides of the sea; for the English it is the sea that gravitates towards the moon.")


Because their illustrations exactly matched what anyone could see by touring a slaughterhouse or execution ground, Japanese physicians start collecting Dutch anatomy books. Therefore this is a good place to mark Japan’s intellectual turn away from China and toward Europe.

The first Chinese martial art group to call itself the I-ho-ch’üan ("Boxers United in Righteousness") appears in Shantung Province. Its leader was an experienced teacher of boxing and cudgel fighting named Li Hao-jan. Although Li’s methods included training in breathing and meditation, his was essentially a boxing club, as government inquiries found that his fighters were more closely linked to gamblers than to religious sectarians. Therefore there is no reason except the name to link Li’s school with the eponymous Boxer movement of the 1890s.

During Wang Lun’s rebellion in Shantung Province, a tall, white-haired female rebel is seen astride a horse, wielding one sword with ease and two with care. The woman, whose name is unknown, was a sorceress who claimed to be in touch with the White Lotus deity known as the Eternal Mother. An actress named Wu San-niang ("Third Daughter Wu") was also involved in Wang Lun’s rebellion. Described as a better boxer, tightrope walker, and acrobat than her late husband, Wu’s skill is remarked mainly because female boxers were unusual in a society whose standards of beauty required women to bind their feet.

Philip Vickers Fithian describes the rough-and-tumble fights held on Saturday afternoons in Richmond, Virginia. Said the Princeton graduate, "Every diabolical Strategem for Mastery of Bruising, Kicking, Scratching, Pinching, Biting, Butting, Tripping, Throtling, Gouging, Cursing, Dismembering, Howling, &c. is allowed and practised." Such brawls were not prizefights, but eye-gouging duels between working-class white males. Motivations ranged from arguments over women to someone offering a dram without first wiping the top of the jug.

Despite having little or no experience with the use of the cavalry saber, London-based fencing master Harry Angelo is commissioned to develop a system of sword combat instruction for the City of London Light Horse Volunteers. His method of instruction was based primarily on singlestick.

About 1775:

Off Maui, a Hawaiian chief named Nu’uanu-pa’ahu is mauled by sharks and dies. The killing is subsequently attributed to the invocations of the huna priests employed by a political rival named Kalani-o-pu’u. (Black magic is part of the traditional warrior’s bag of tricks.) Nu’uanu-pa’ahu’s death makes Kalani-o-pu’u the effective king of Hawaii. English sailors described Kalani-o-pu’u as a red-eyed man of indeterminate age, much addicted to drinking kava. His chief priest was a man named Koa, whom the English described as very old, very ugly, and shaking from a lifetime of kava abuse. (Kava is an intoxicating beverage made from the crushed roots of a shrubby pepper plant known as Piper methysticum. In Tongan, the word means "bitter.")


The German anatomist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach invents a way of categorizing people by head shape, skin color, and eye folds. This sets the groundwork for the European philosophy called racism.

Philip Vickers Fithian writes that Easter Monday in Virginia was a general holiday, and that "Negroes now are all disbanded till Wednesday morning & are at Cock Fights through the County." Slave owners also gave slaves off the six days between Christmas and New Years. "This time we regarded as our own," said former slave Frederick Douglass in 1845, "and we therefore used or abused it as we pleased." Some slaves spent the time visiting friends, hunting, or making brooms. "But by far the larger part," said Douglass, "engaged in such sports and merriments as playing ball, wrestling, running foot-races, fiddling, dancing, and drinking whisky."

About 1776:

According to tradition, a Buddhist nun named Ng Mui creates a southern Shaolin boxing style known as wing chun ("Beautiful Springtime"). The tradition has never been proven, and twentieth century stylistic leaders such as Yip Chun believed that a Cantonese actor named Ng Cheung created the style during the 1730s. If Yip was correct, then the female attribution could mean that Ng Cheung specialized in playing female roles, or that the ultimate master is a loving old woman rather than some muscled Adonis. Still, it is possible that some southern Chinese women practiced boxing in a group setting. During the late eighteenth century, Cantonese merchants began hiring Hakka women to work in their silkworm factories. (While ethnically Chinese, the Hakka had separate dialect and customs. Unlike most Chinese, these customs did not include binding the feet of girls. Therefore, their women were physically capable of working outside the home.) To protect themselves from kidnappers (marriage by rape remained a feature of Chinese life into the 1980s), these factory women gradually organized themselves into lay sisterhoods. Consequently, it is possible that Ng Mui was a labor organizer or head of an orphanage whose name became associated with a boxing style.


A German schoolmaster named Johann Friedrich Simon puts gymnastics into the German high schools. As the most spectacular tricks were done over water, this created the sport of high diving.


Anglo-Irish aristocrats formulate the Clonmel Code. This listed the 26 commandments of British aristocratic dueling. Acceptable reasons for dueling included accusations of cheating at cards or horse races, insulting ladies, or receiving blows with the fist. Challenges had to be delivered during the day, probably to ensure that they were more than just drunken rage. While the challenger had the right to choose weapons, swords could be declined in favor of pistols. (And generally were in Britain, although they remained popular in Europe until after World War II.) To prevent cheating, pistols had to be matched, and loaded in the presence of seconds. Although misfires, snaps, and half-cocks were considered shots, intentionally firing into the ground or the air was prohibited. Ranges were open for debate, and, depending on the seriousness of the duelists, could be as near as four or as far as twenty yards. Seconds were charged with reconciling the duelists before the duel and after each firing. Such reconciliation was often successful. In Ireland, duelists were also known to intentionally miss, and then spend the rest of the day drinking and laughing together.

A former cavalryman and riding school owner named Philip Astley opens a London theater that featured riders and horses trained in the Continental school of dressage (a method not common in England). In 1782, a former Astley rider opens a rival equestrian business called the Royal Circus and Philharmonic Academy; the modern word "circus" is owed to this latter organization. Although the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon (1792-1815) greatly reduced the numbers of skilled riders and trained horses, afterwards, "hippodramas," which were plays performed on horseback. One of the more spectacular of these hippodramas was the 1824 "Battle of Waterloo," which included real Waterloo veterans and cannon.

German musicians create a military drum-roll known as Zapfen, or the Tap-Room Call, for the purpose of notifying soldiers that it was time to drain their jugs and leave their tap-rooms for their bunks. Federal officers introduced a bugle-blown version of this sad nocturnal tune into the United States Army during the American Civil War. Thus the tune "Taps."

Toward stamping out effeminacy in the Swedish aristocracy, the Swedish King Gustavus III starts organizing medieval-styled tournaments. The practice stopped in 1800, after excited knights shot several spectators and caused a grandstand to collapse.

About 1778:

Adam Dodd of Langwathby Mill, Thomas Johnston of Workington Hall, and John Tinian of Holm Cultram become famous wrestlers in Northwest England. North Country, or Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling, was their preferred style. North Country wrestling evolved from Norse backhold wrestling, and included many backheel trips. Other techniques included cross-buttock throws, hip throws, outside reaping throws, and feints. The chief meets were the Melmerby and Langwathby Rounds, which were held annually around New Year’s and Midsummer’s Day. Winners received silver cups, leather breeches, and other valuable prizes. For coopers, farm hands, and millers, training consisted of manual labor and walking. The sons of the local gentry also did well in wrestling, with the scholars of Bampton School being especially noted for their skillful buttock throws. This made the Bampton curate, Abraham Brown, Britain’s first middle-class wrestling hero.

British explorers report female pugilism in the Friendly Islands. In 1805, another British traveler named John Turnbull saw Polynesian female pugilists "hanging on each other’s necks like bulldogs, tearing their hair, bumping the stomach of the other, both with their hands and feet; in a word, neglecting no means of victory." While such tactics didn’t surprise Turnbull much, the aftermath did. Following a fall, the fighters stood, and "after adjusting their hair, would tenderly embrace, and be as good friends as ever."


The British officer Robert Hinde provides the following recipe for cleaning firearms in a book called The Discipline of the Light Horse: "One Ounce of Camphire to Two Pounds of Hogs-Lard, Dissolve them together and take off the Scum; Mix as much Black-Lead as will bring them to an Iron Colour: Rub your Arms over with this, and let it lie on Twenty-four Hours, then Clean them as well as possible with a Linen Cloth, and they will keep without the least Rust for Six Months."

Rather than leave their warm billets to finish off George Washington’s army at Valley Forge, British soldiers in Philadelphia stage a Mischianza, or equestrian tournament. The event began with a regatta and a seventeen-gun salute, followed by "an exhibition of tilt and tournament, according to the customs and ordinances of ancient chivalry." One of the White Knights was Major John André, a man whom two years later Washington ordered hanged as a spy for his role in the Benedict Arnold affair.


A Hawaiian named Ku’a kills Captain James Cook. Reasons for the killing included the realization that the Yorkshireman was a mariner rather than a reincarnation of the god Orono. The Hawaiians then distributed parts of Cook’s ribs and breastbone to shrines located around Oahu. Lieutenant William Bligh thereby became the new English master navigator.

Major George Rogers Clark becomes notorious for scalping Woodland Indian prisoners, while wining and dining European prisoners.

About 1780:

A Virginia planter named Charles Lynch subjects suspected horse thieves and counterfeiters to tree-side justice. Judge Lynch’s law becomes widespread in the United States between 1880 and 1927, when vigilantes hanged, burned, beat, shot, or tortured to death at least 700 white and probably ten times more non-white men. No one has ever thought to calculate the number of women raped, or houses burned.

An Okinawan aristocrat of Chinese ancestry named Ko Sai begins practicing shuai chiao, or Chinese wrestling. This is the beginning of Kojo-ryu karate.

To reduce injuries, rules are introduced to shinai contests that limit scoring only to points covered by body armor. This in turn led to the development of new techniques meant solely to score points in contest. A well-known nineteenth century teacher of these new methods was Chiba Shusaku Narimasa of the Hokushin Itto-ryu, whose curriculum of 68 techniques was virtually standard until the 1920s.


A Tyrolean clock maker named Bartolomeo Girandoni manufactures some twenty-shot air rifles for the Austrians. While they worked well, these technologically advanced .56 caliber weapons were withdrawn from service in 1801 and banned outright in 1802. In theory, this was because the weapons were fragile, but in practice it was more probably because the roar of a flintlock musket was too thrilling to give up for mere range and accuracy. The noise and smoke of firearms has been suggested as a reason why firearms replaced crossbows during the sixteenth century. As a 14-year old Los Angeles gangster of the 1980s told a reporter about the lure of automatic weapons such as MAC-10s and AK-47s, "Man, them booms made you happy. Boom! Boom!"

To muffle their footfalls as they worked their way into an enemy encampment in Gwalior, India, an English soldier named Major Popham orders a raiding party to wrap their boots in cut-up blankets. Twenty-five years later, the quartermaster deducts the cost of the blankets from Popham’s pay.


Smallpox ravages the American Indians living in the Rocky Mountains, and opens the Bow River country of Eastern Alberta to Blackfoot expansion.

Turkic-speaking Chinese Muslims living in Kansu Province brawl in the streets over matters of Islamic ritual. The men fought using long poles, short sticks, and whips, while the women threw garbage. Martial art training took place in mosques, and combined Sufistic spirit possession and trance dancing with hsing-i and other martial arts commonly practiced by caravan guards. While extremely effective within its limitations (several modern Chinese national champions were Muslims), the martial training did not give practitioners any special powers. For if it had, they would have survived the mass executions that ultimately ended the revolt.

An English naturalist named Sir Ashton Lever creates the Toxophilite Society. This was an aristocratic club devoted to preserving and promoting archery. Its meeting place was Leichester House in London. An aristocratic organization granted a Royal charter in 1787, and the Society had both male and female members. In 1844, it established the modern archery marks at 60, 80, and 100 yards, which in turn represented the maximum effective ranges of eighteenth century English archers. The Toxophilites were a social club rather than a shooting club and many early members greatly preferred chasing women to chasing arrows. Therefore, when Mahmoud Effendi, a secretary at the Turkish Embassy in London, shot a wind-assisted shaft 482 yards in 1795, Joseph Strutt complained, "His arrows fell exceedingly wide of each other." Horace Ford, whose 1856 book called Archery, Its Theory and Practice still offers valuable insight, was the probably first modern English archer to be more interested in archery than wine, women, and song.

An Irish boxer named Peter Corcoran meets an English boxer named Bill Darts. The venue was Epsom Downs during racing season. To ensure the right results, Corcoran’s backer, a well-known horse racer named Dennis O’Kelly, pays Darts a hundred guineas to lose. Darts took the money, quit at the first opportunity, and caused quite a scandal among the Fancy.


A 22-year old Massachusetts woman named Deborah Samson cuts her hair and enlists in the Continental Army. She called herself Robert Shurtliff, and served during the suppression of Loyalist activity in New York. She also wrote letters for illiterate soldiers and did her best to avoid rough soldiers’ games such as wrestling. (The one time she did wrestle, she was flung to the ground.) Following her discharge in 1783, she married, and 1802 she began lecturing on her military experiences. She died in 1827, and in 1838 her husband became the first man to receive a pension from the United States government for his wife’s military service. Samson’s maritime equivalents during the Revolutionary War included Fanny Campbell and Mary Anne Talbot.


French aeronauts go aloft in hot air and hydrogen balloons; two years later Jean-Pierre Blanchard crosses the English Channel in one. By causing Europeans and North Americans to start believing that technology could create a future markedly different from the past, these aeronauts helped create the nineteenth century faith in human progress.


British and United States sailors trade iron arrows, ax heads, and surplus firearms to the Indians of Alaska and British Columbia. Copper was evidently a trade item, too, as the Northwest Coast chief Neghicum-gee had a breastplate made of copper mined in Cornwall, England. (The first documented contact between Spanish and Northwest Coast Indians was in 1774, but that doesn’t mean that trading did not begin earlier.)

A Ryukyuan merchant named Shionja returns to Okinawa in the company of a Chinese soldier named Kung Hsiang-chün. The latter becomes known in the Ryukyus as Kusanku, and one of the oldest Shorin-ryu kata is subsequently named for him. This said, the arts or styles that Kung practiced and taught are unknown.

About 1785:

According to tradition, a Chinese boxer named Wang Tsung-yueh introduces t’ai chi ch’uan into Honan Province. Wang is credited with writing the classic known as T’ai Chi Ch’uan Lun. A sample of this classic follows. The rhythmic structure is designed to make the verses easier to memorize. The translation is by Benjamin Lo and his students Martin Inn, Robert Amacker, and Susan Foe.

There are many boxing arts.

Although they use different forms,

for the most part they don’t go beyond

the strong oppressing the weak,

and the slow resigning to the swift.


The publication of the Treatise of Ancient Armour and Weapons by Francis Grose stirs English interest in antique arms and armor. This said, scholarly investigations only date to 1824, and the publication of the appropriately titled Critical Inquiry into Ancient Armour by Samuel Rush Meyrick.

The Korean government starts persecuting Christians. The reason was that Chinese Christianity was proving too attractive to people interested in acquiring Chinese goods and technology. (Roman Catholicism did not enter Korea until 1835, nor did North American Methodism until 1884.)

A Swiss fencer named Fischer publishes L’art de l’escrime ("The Art of Fencing") in Saint Petersburg. Written in French and describing a German method, this is Russia’s oldest known fencing manual.


According to the Scottish fur trader David Thompson, northern Plains Indian warfare consisted of the two sides lining up behind three-foot high wooden shields, then firing arrows at long range until nightfall. Because everyone could see the arrows coming, casualties were infrequent, unless for some reason one side or the other decided to charge the enemy and destroy him using clubs or lances. Meanwhile, in New Mexico, the equestrian Comanches, who clubbed their opponents from horseback, were warily agreeing to quit murdering and raping New Mexican women and children in return for fair trade agreements. The difference in the two forms of warfare involved the greater availability of horses among the southern Plains Indians. (Horses made it easier for raiders to avoid enemy warriors while helping them sneak up on women, children, and horse remudas. As for the method of attack, Howard Hill, a twentieth-century Cherokee archer, wrote of buffalo hunting on horseback, "During all the years I had dreamed of such a chase as this. I had vastly underestimated the thrill it would be." No doubt hunting pedestrians was equally thrilling.)

Lieutenant William Bligh of HMS Bounty hires a fiddler to accompany his breadfruit expedition to Tahiti. The reason was that Bligh believed that daily dancing provided the best exercise for sailors.


The Hawaiian King Kamehameha I acquires Chinese iron from British sailors wintering at Oahu. According to Kamehameha’s descendants, this iron was then made into weapons that helped Kamehameha’s army win its subsequent campaigns. That explanation may be an example of reading history backwards, as the British explorer George Vancouver wrote in 1798 that only the king’s bodyguard carried iron daggers, and that everyone else carried wooden clubs and spears.

Gentleman John Jackson -- a moniker he carried because he was from the middle rather than working classes -- wins his first prizefight. His opponent was William Fewterell of Birmingham, who was also the publisher of a pugilistic newspaper. The site of their fight was Smitham Bottom in Coulsdon, and spectators included the Prince of Wales. Published challenges, says historian Elliott Gorn, were an early indication of honor becoming marketable goods, a symptom of the commercialization of leisure.

Near Port Jackson, Australia (modern Sydney), some Royal Marines hold impromptu wrestling matches with the convicts of Australia’s First Fleet. Although betting on the outcome was doubtless part of the sport, professional wrestling in theatrical settings did not become popular in Australia until the mid-1880s. Important Australian promoters of the late nineteenth century included the Melbourne strongman William Miller. Born in Cheshire, England, in 1846, Miller went to Australia with his parents in 1851, and as an adult, he competed professionally in boxing, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, and long-distance walking. Professional wrestling styles seen in Australia during the 1880s and 1890s included collar-and-elbow, Cornish, American side-hold, Cumberland and Westmorland, Greco-Roman, and catch-as-catch-can. Advertising stressed the ethnicity of the wrestlers, hence matches were billed as Irish versus English, Scot versus American, and so on.

In Siam, two French sailors reportedly arrange a prizefight. According to the story, the Siamese nobility selected a court boxer named Mun Phlan as their representative. The French were evidently wrestlers rather than boxers, and because the rules were not really understood on either side, the fight was called a draw after seconds on both sides started brawling in the ring. The story was dusted off in the early twentieth century, and made part of Thai nationalist lore.


Sixteen mutineers from HMS Bounty introduce gunpowder warfare to Tahiti. (While Captain Cook’s party introduced muskets to the island in 1778, there were only three or four of these weapons, with limited powder and few flints. Therefore, their impact was minimal. The mutineers, on the other hand, brought boxes of flints and barrels of powder.) Previously, spears and stones had been the Tahitians’ main ranged weapons. While the Tahitians had bows, they viewed archery a semi-sacred aristocratic entertainment. In the Tahitian archery game, range was more important than accuracy. Archers shot from a kneeling position. Judges ran out and marked arrows where they lay with flags. Three hundred yards was a good shot. Tahitian bows were made from hibiscus wood. They measured about 5 feet in length. Arrows were bamboo reeds tipped with ironwood, and measured 30"-36" in length. Strings were made from flax, and often broke under the strain.


According to tradition, Reverend Elijah Craig of Bourbon County, Kentucky, discovers that aging corn whiskey in oak barrels for a couple years greatly improves its flavor. Nevertheless, many, perhaps most, Americans continued drinking their corn likker straight from the still for the next 150 years.

With the publication of The Art of Boxing, Daniel Mendoza popularizes "scientific" boxing in England. Also known as Regency style, after the patronage of the British aristocracy of the day, the term "scientific" referred to the "science" (e.g., thinking and planning) required for the pugilist to move about the ring instead of simply standing toe-to-toe and slugging. Drawings show Regency pugilists standing left side forward with one hand high and the other hand low. Their knees were bent and their bodies were thrown back to protect their heads. The straight left was the favorite attack, perhaps followed by a counter, meaning a punch thrown simultaneous with the other fighter’s attack. Cross-buttock throws were common, a tactic probably stemming from the appearance of professional wrestlers such as Adam Dodd and John Tinian in the ring. While rounds ended every time an opponent fell, the rules (or, more precisely, the lack of them) allowed pugilists to attack while breaking from a clinch, or to assist an opponent to the ground with a knee into the chest or groin.

The Japanese strongmen (rikishi) Tanikaze and Onogawa become the first sumotori to receive championship diplomas from the Yoshida family of Kumamoto. They were hardly the last, as 200 years later, the Yoshidas were still in charge of awarding these diplomas.

After shooting a curl from the wig of Frederick, Duke of York, during a pistol duel held on Wimbledon Common, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Lennox is transferred from the Coldstream Guards to a less prestigious regiment (the 35th). The official explanation was that he showed good spirit but poor judgment. Otherwise, Lennox’s career was unhindered by the shot across the royal brow, and from 1807-1813, Lennox, by then Duke of Richmond, was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1815, he served on Wellington’s staff at Waterloo, and in 1818 he was appointed Governor General of Canada, where he soon after died of rabies.

Hessian soldiers serving in the British Army are reported settling disputes about women or cards by stripping to the waist, then drunkenly slashing at one another with knives until blood was drawn, and honor satisfied. Middle-class versions of these working-class duels were also found in contemporary German universities. Here they were known as Mensur, or "Measured" duels, and fought in dirty, sawdust-floored halls splashed with beer, blood, and candle-grease. Mensur dueling required more strength than skill, and was designed mostly to cause facial scarring. (Facial scars were much admired by middle-class society women and employers.) To reduce the risk of serious injury, the players wore canvas jackets, leather gloves, and iron goggles. On the other hand, German aristocrats fought using pistols fired at point-blank range, which resulted in a casualty rate approaching two in three. Why did the Germans choose to fight with deadly weapons and intent? Mainly because they lived in a rigid, inequitable society that worshipped masculine aggression.

A one-eyed Hawaiian warrior named Namaateerae dodges five spears thrown at him from a distance of about 10 yards. He did this by dodging the first spear with his body while catching it about mid-shaft in his hand, and then using that first spear to deflect the next four shafts. Namaateerae was equally adept at dodging spears when armed only with a dagger.


The Chinese establish a National Theater in Peking. The purpose was to display the Chinese theatricals commonly (but imprecisely) known in English as the Chinese opera. (The distinction has to do with the music, because in Chinese theatricals, the music is not the sole means of verbal communication. In addition, Chinese musical plays were sometimes read as literature. Consequently, the Chinese theater has more in common with the Elizabethan theater than the European opera.) Anyway, spectacularly choreographed fight scenes were as important to Chinese theatricals as they were to anyone’s. To make these work, schools were established for children as young as four years of age, and because a star could make a good living, standards for admission were very high. (As recently as 1985, fewer than one child in 10,000 achieved admission to a national-level theatrical school.) Once enrolled, things didn’t get any easier, either. Physical training, for example, included daily practice in bodybuilding, gymnastics, and sword handling while concurrent academic training involved memorizing long passages from Chinese classical literature. Thus, National Theater-level martial art students operated at an entirely different level of proficiency than those of the Shantung wushu teacher of 1900 who promised his students that they would be bulletproof following just one day of study.

Parliament changes British law so women convicted of passing counterfeit money or murdering their husbands are subsequently hanged by the neck rather than burned at the stake.

About 1791:

Swiss youths are reported practicing supervised wrestling in school. In these matches, either time or submission determined victory. To reduce the risk of injuries, metal articles of clothing, head-butting, hair-pulling, and attacks to the eyes, ears, and crotch were banned. The supervision and rules suggest the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Bernhard Basedow, eighteenth century pedagogues who believed that a well-rounded education required a balance between physical, mental, and moral training.


Donatien-Alphonse-Francois, the Marquis de Sade, publishes Justine. In this book, says David Morris, the Marquis set about examining "human sexual behavior like a slightly unhinged Linnaeus determined to identify and classify every possible permutation of lust." But, as the Sadean violence was amoral and its eroticism anal, its readership was small. Nevertheless, it provided the Fancy with their first pornographic descriptions of rape and bondage since hellfire and damnation had fallen from grace during the late seventeenth century.

The Rev. Edward Barry, M.D., publishes Theological, Philosophical and Moral Essays, one of which protested "the brutal practice of boxing." This is perhaps the earliest anti-boxing tract ever published.


At Chelmsford, England, two women box for 45 minutes. The women’s husbands served as seconds. The beaten woman’s husband shouted for her to continue, but the spectators put an end to the fight.


Trap shooting becomes popular in England. The sport involved releasing live birds from traps, then betting how many the shooter would hit before missing, or would hit out of a given number (generally fifty). The dead birds were then collected and sold to local hotels, where they were made into pigeon pie. To reduce the expense, English shooters started substituting feather-filled glass balls for live birds around 1830, while Scottish shooters started using exploding clay pigeons around 1880. Nevertheless, trap shooters continued using live birds in Britain and North America into the early 1900s, Europe into the 1950s, and South America and Asia into the present. Modern objections to live trap shooting are usually based on cruelty to animals rather than expense.

In Japan, Raiden Tameimon wins his first sumo championship. Among the finest sumotori of all time -- Raiden lost only ten bouts during a 21-year professional career -- and at 6’5" and 375 pounds, he was certainly one of the largest.

An inventory reveals that state militiamen are stealing over 7,000 muskets a year from United States arsenals. Accordingly, the United States Congress passes laws requiring that all subsequent military weapons be plainly marked with the abbreviation "U.S."

The Saxon educator Johann Guts Muths publishes Gymnastics for the Young. Three years later, he follows up with another book called Games. The idea of both books was that every minute of a schoolboy’s day should be filled with purposeful, directed activity. To Guts Muths, games that operated without special equipment or external controls were bad. On the other hand, games that required special equipment, elaborate rules, and all-powerful judges were good. Games that could not be easily quantified were also bad. Quantification, to Guts Muths, included keeping careful score, calculating time in fifths of seconds, measuring distances to fractions of an inch. Finally, competition was encouraged, with the winners receiving prizes and the losers being shamed. In other words, it could be easily argued that Guts Muths invented modern sports.

A British scientist named Murdo Downie notices that iron attracts the needle of ship’s compasses. No one pays attention to his findings until the appearance of ironclad steamships during the 1830s.

About 1794:

A Korean official named Yi Dok-mu compiles a manual of the martial art techniques used by the Korean army. Known as the Mu Yei Do Bo Tong Ji, or "Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts," it was written in classical Chinese, perhaps to keep it from being easily understood by merchants and wives. Of the text’s nearly 300 pages, only sixteen discussed unarmed combat. While as the techniques shown look like northern Shaolin, tang soo do’s Hwang Kee has claimed this as a source document for various post-World War II Korean martial arts.

The ch’i-kung ("internal energy") technique known as chin chung chao, or "Armor of the Golden Bell," develops in Honan Province. The name referred to Taoist breathing methods that supposedly allowed practitioners to resist sword blows. These methods proved more popular with urban hucksters than soldiers or magistrates, as they often involved nothing more than the instructor burning incense and chanting spells while his assistant beat the paying students with sticks. And whenever cynical officials brought their own swords and asked to see the techniques work for themselves, the masters always begged off, saying, "Ours is the Way of the Immortals; we don’t use knives or violence."

A boxing match between two English women is described. "Great intensity between them was maintained for about two hours, whereupon the elder fell into great difficulty through the closure of her left eye from the extent of swelling above and below it which rendered her blind… Their bosoms were much enlarged but yet they each continued to rain blows upon this most feeling of tissue without regard to the pitiful cries issuing forth at each success which was evidently to the delight of the spectators."


Philadelphia Quakers begin classifying crime by degrees of severity. For example, first-degree murder was premeditated, whereas second-degree was not. The classification was a move toward determining which crimes called for the death penalty, and which crimes did not.

As France’s ancien régime falls to the guillotine, arsenals are built that are capable of producing 750 muskets a day. This exceeds the production of the rest of Europe combined, and helps explain the early military successes of Revolutionary France.

The price of a Hudson’s Bay Company trade musket in Saskatchewan is listed as fourteen beaver pelts. The weapon in question was a .63 caliber muzzle-loading flintlock. Its barrel length was between 30-42 inches. (Short barrels were more popular, as they were handier on horseback.) The weapons had oversized trigger guards to allow use with mittens during the winter. In other words, the weapon was, along with rum, tobacco, blue beads, and Chinese vermilion, exactly what the customers wanted.

A German encyclopedia describes Great Russian wrestling as involving mostly tripping, and placing more reliance on skill than strength. This was then compared German backhold wrestling, where strength was more important than skill.


Through a series of interlocking treaties backed by what historian Charles Allen has called "bullying, bribery, and military prowess," the Honourable East India Company starts spreading British procedural law throughout India. This was less gunpowder diplomacy than the fact that the Company was the only cohesive force in India. British officers often served as advisers to allied maharajahs, and through their efforts, disputing Indian rulers started using wrestling pits, polo games, and courtrooms as surrogate battlefields.

After grabbing a Jewish boxer named Daniel Mendoza by the hair and then beating him senseless, "Gentleman John" Jackson starts teaching pugilism to the Fancy. Arguably a better showman than boxer, Jackson was nevertheless a talented teacher who not only told his students what they should do, but why they should do it. Accordingly, his school, which emphasized diet and fitness more than sparring (it didn’t do to disabuse paying customers of their frequently fantastic ideas concerning practical self-defense), quickly became fashionable with the British aristocracy. (Only one social class generally patronized an individual English boxing or fencing academy. The schools of Jackson and the fencing Angelos, for instance, were patronized by upper-class enthusiasts such as the poet Lord Byron, while the school of a French professor named Olivier was patronized by middle-class lawyers, newspaper editors, and clergymen.) Prizefighters often found paying employment as "minders," as the British termed bodyguards, through Jackson’s auspices. It was Jackson’s boxers, for instance, that King George IV used to keep drunken guests from smashing too much furniture during the coronation celebrations of 1821.

About 1796:

Shang ch’uan, or "Turning Palms," is created in Anwei Province, perhaps by a man named Tung Meng-lin. Although often said to be a Taoist movement art, shang ch’uan was widely practiced by Chinese Muslims during the 1850s. It gained its modern name of pa kua ch’uan, or "Eight Trigrams Palms," during the 1870s. A boxer from Hopei Province named Tung Hai-ch’uan may have been responsible for the latter name change. (He was not Muslim, but Taoist.) Be that as it may, the pa kua ch’uan practiced by the White Lotus rebel Wang Lun in Shantung Province from 1751 to 1774 is an unrelated martial art. According to historian Susan Naquin, training in the military (wu) aspects of Wang Lun’s pa kua ch’uan began with boxing and quarterstaff fighting, then advanced to kicking and fighting with a two-bladed sword. Meanwhile, training in civil (wen) aspects included training in meditation, spirit possession, and fasting. The martial aspects of the military arts must have been practical, as there were both homicides and local fighting championships attributed to it. The civil aspects were evidently pleasurable, too, as its practitioners, who included a traveling actress, some peddlers, six Buddhist monks, and a money lender, preferred persecution and execution to giving it up.

In response to sectarian uprisings in Shantung and lineage feuds in Kwangtung and Fukien, the Chinese government encourages local landowners to fortify their villages and to arm their peasants. Similar in concept to what the British would later call "strategic hamlets," a Fukienese educator named Kung Ching-han subsequently popularized the idea. While most of the resulting militias were communal crop-watching organizations, a few became rural extortion rings. These were called pan-gai, or "half-empty," in deference to their leaders’ always-empty rice bowls. These Chinese pan-gai schools are not associated with the Okinawan Pangai-noon-ryu, which is instead an offshoot of Uechi-ryu karate established in 1978.

English prizefighters are reported using light dumbbells to strengthen their punches. Tom Owens of Hampshire is credited with the innovation.


A West Indian boxer named Joe Lashley reportedly becomes the first black prizefighter to kill a man in the English prize ring. But this was probably not the first time, only the first time in England, as American and West Indian planters were inveterate gamblers, and according to the Virginian Thomas Jefferson, an English education consisted mostly of learning "drinking, horse racing, and boxing." Boxing matches between slaves were also common in New York and Virginia before the Revolutionary War, and Texas and Louisiana before the Civil War. The source of inspiration is obvious, as the matches were called cockfights, and the players were called "chickens." Eye-gouging brawls were also reported between members of prison work-crews, where the prisoners were held together by iron collars, or jougs, connected by chains. Such collars date to the 1550s, and were originally used by the Scots and Dutch for punishing apprentices who struck their employers. As errant slaves would have been returned to their owners for punishment, most pre-Civil War chain-gang fighters would have been white. Post-Civil War chain-gang fighters, on the other hand, could have been of either race.


Protestant missionaries introduce evangelical Christianity into Polynesia. Christian morals ultimately prove more devastating to Polynesian traditional culture than the alcoholism, firearms, and tuberculosis carried by Peruvian slavers and Anglo-American whalers.

Benjamin Thompson, a New England fireplace designer, proves that fire is energy in motion rather than a weightless substance. The finding causes scientists to question the ancient paradigm of earth, air, fire, and water. Thompson, the future Count Rumford, is also remembered for nearly blinding himself with homemade fireworks at an early age.

A well-publicized bare-knuckle brawl between two rival Glasgow gang leaders named Jim Naylor and Jimmie Quinn helps popularize English-style prizefighting in Scotland.


Police statistics show that 45% of all arrests in Mexico City were alcohol-related.

Toward reducing pilferage along the London docks, the West India Company establishes the Marine Police Force. This is England’s first modern police force.

The Connecticut inventor Eli Whitney wins a contract to make 10,000 muskets for the United States government. While these weapons are often claimed as the first mass-produced firearms, Whitney’s sales pitch was based on rigged demonstrations, and the weapons Whitney ultimately delivered to the United States government were hand-made instead of mass-produced. Therefore, they are more symbolic of cost-overruns and shoddy contracting than mass production. Truly mass-produced firearms do not appear until high-pressure presses become common in the United States and Germany during the 1860s. Consequently, as recently as World War II, British soldiers would be amazed by American firearms and vehicles that possessed truly interchangeable parts.

In Boston, G. L. Barrett advertises to teach fencing and "the Scientific and manly art of BOXING" to the gentlemen of Boston. To join Barrett’s class cost $3, and each eight lessons cost another $5. To put such costs in perspective one could simultaneously buy a hundred gallons of corn whiskey for $18, half of which was tax.

During fights over women held in Entlebach, Switzerland, young men are reported engaging in uncontrolled wrestling matches. Techniques included head-butting, hair-pulling, and face-punching. While brass knuckles, iron-shod shoes, and handkerchiefs filled with stones were included in the participants’ arsenals, scratching with the fingernails was discouraged, as it was perceived as being an unmanly deed. The Fräuleins being fought over were probably competent judges of wrestling ability, too, as in 1941 the Weber family chronicle noted that a nineteenth century ancestor named Urschla Roth threw one boy after another during some matches held at Langwies.

The Turkish Sultan Selim III (or more likely, one of his servants) shoots a wind-assisted flight arrow for a record 972 yards. The strength required to string and draw a bow with the necessary 160-pound pull was developed by practicing with heavy iron weapons of the kind still twirled by the strongmen of the Iranian Zour Khaneh. This shot is also the record for a shot made with a bow that was not made of fiberglass. (The perhaps legendary Hellenic record for a standing bow shot was 564 yards. Unfortunately, the length of a Greek yard is not certain. In modern times, the best verified shot using a longbow is the 391-yard record that the Cherokee archer Harold Hill achieved in 1928. Routine maximum range for a Turkish bow with a war arrow was around 350 yards, or about a hundred yards farther than an English longbow.)

During a meet at Soukerry, the 18-year old William Richardson of Caldbeck, England scores his first trophy in Cumberland wrestling. A joiner by trade, Richardson never had a single fall recorded against him between 1801 and 1809, despite attending nearly every belted wrestling event in the country. A strongly built man with round shoulders and back, Richardson stood 5’9" in height and weighed about 200 pounds. His official prize was usually a leather belt with his name on it and enough cloth to make a pair of pants. As with boxing, the real money rode on the side bets.


The Royal Military College is established at Sandhurst, England.

With the support of Frederick VI, regent and crown prince of Denmark, Franz Nachtigal establishes a Prussian-style gymnasium in Copenhagen. Nachtigal, like Guts Muths, believed that "fun" was overrated. Therefore schoolchildren and soldiers needed to do exercises that made them respond quickly to their superiors rather than games that they enjoyed. Furthermore, they needed to be graded in everything they did, and their performances needed to show measurable improvement over time. In other words, physical training was something that children and soldiers did for the nation, not for fun. Pehr Ling, the father of Swedish gymnastics, was the most famous student of Nachtigal’s school.

About 1800:

Jemmy Foster of Alston is mentioned as one of the best Cumberland wrestlers in England. This suggests an amazing amount of skill, as Foster, who stood 5’7" tall and weighed just 150 pounds, won the county championships for seven years running. (Weight divisions were not introduced until 1835.) Cash prizes were also introduced about the same time, probably during the Highmoor games at Wigton.


Bill Richmond becomes Britain’s first esteemed black pugilist. A natural middleweight born on Staten Island, New York in 1763, Richmond’s fighting skills came to the attention of a British general named Hugh Percy after the 14-year old soundly thrashed three of Lord Percy’s soldiers during a barroom brawl in 1777. Percy took Richmond with him to England in 1778, and Richmond took up prizefighting in 1791. Richmond fought Tom Cribb for a purse of 25 guineas in 1805. He lost, and turned to managing a tavern (the Horse and Dolphin) and training other black fighters. Said Richmond, "If a man of color cannot fight for the English title, then at least I can be a [teacher]." Richmond-trained fighters included Tom Molineaux of Virginia, Sam Robinson of New York, Joseph Stephenson of Maryland, plus others known only as Sutton, Massa Kendricks, Bristow, and Johnson. Richmond was also a pioneer of the practice of using raised stages during indoor mills, and fighting stripped to the waist rather than dressed in shirtsleeves.

About 1801:

Samuel Elias, a London pugilist known as Dutch Sam, had a violent temper, and he was notorious for using his powerful uppercuts to hit his opponents in the face while holding their heads trapped in the crook of his elbow. Passive defenses against such ungentlemanly tactics included a closely-shaved head -- it reduced the risk of hair-pulling -- while active defenses included hip-throws and palm-heel strikes to the kidneys and arms. Because he was Jewish, Elias was not welcome in Jackson’s Rooms. Therefore he normally sparred with Daniel Mendoza at the Lyceum Theatre on Wellington Street. Sparring partners for these two outstanding boxers were not the only stiffs on the premises, as Madame Tussaud opened her first London wax-works at the Lyceum Theatre in 1802.


The United States establishes a military academy at West Point, New York. The United States Military Academy was an engineering school, and wrestling and boxing were only added to its curriculum in late 1905 to satisfy President Theodore Roosevelt. The Point’s wrestling coach from 1906 until 1942 was the one-eyed Tom Jenkins, a former national champion from Cleveland whose motto was "There ain’t no hold that can’t be broke."

André-Jacques Garnerin of France makes the world’s first parachute jump. Garnerin’s wife Jeanne-Geneviève was his balloon pilot, and his niece Elisa often flew and jumped with him.


The German pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner pours liquid ammonia over opium to create morphine. While this new narcotic became a popular medication following the perfection of hypodermic needles and subcutaneous injections in 1853, no one recognized its addictive properties until after the Crimean War, American Civil War, and Franco-Prussian War had made morphine addiction the so-called "soldier’s disease."

The United States naval officer Stephen Decatur offers this advice to another naval officer before a pistol duel: "Aim lower if you wish to live."

The word amateur enters the English language. Originally, it referred solely to literary dilettantes. However, during the 1860s, people changed the meaning of the word to refer to rules designed to keep middle-class athletes from competing against working-class and non-white athletes. The elitism in the definition becomes obvious when reading strict definitions, such as this one taken from the constitution of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association: "An amateur is any person who has never competed in any open competition, or for a stake, or for public money, or for admission money, or under a false name, or with a professional, for a prize or where gate money is charged; and who has never at any period of his life taught or assisted in the pursuit of athletic exercises as a means of livelihood."


A Fulani puritan named Usman dan Fodio launches what is arguably sub-Saharan Africa’s first modern jihad. (That is, one meant to spread the Faith rather than acquire land, ivory, or slaves.) Reminders of the power and spectacle of these nineteenth century holy wars are provided in the Sallah processions still held in southern Niger and northern Nigeria. Firearms were not widely used during these early Sudanese jihads, partly because firearms were hard to acquire and repair, and mainly because powder was expensive to make and dangerous to store. Besides training in cavalry skills, spiritual training included participation in a flogging game called sora, which required young men to hit one another on the body with sticks while making no outward expressions of pain. If they did, then they were judged unfit to be men, for, in the words of a modern choral accompaniment, "Lazy boys will not be able to endure/The thrashing of the ribs that only a donkey can withstand."

About 1805:

United States newspapers start posting the names and deeds of men who were too cowardly to accept challenges to duel. Such postings were often harsh, as were the responses. For example, after a Southern duelist named Charles Dickenson hired space in a newspaper to call General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee "a damned liar, a worthless scoundrel, a poltroon, and a coward," and then went on to call Jackson’s wife a harlot. Old Hickory responded by taking Dickenson’s shot, then calmly gut-shooting the man.

British newspapers start reporting the fights that had been occurring at Irish fairs and horse races since at least the 1730s. These fights often involved dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of people on a side. (The sides were known as factions, hence the term "faction fights.") While frustration with foreign rule is sometimes claimed as an underlying factor (similar fights occurred in China during the 1870s and in Korea and Manchuria during the 1890s), analysis of arrest data shows that Irish faction fighters were usually from relatively comfortable farm families rather than the disenfranchised working poor. Furthermore, surviving records suggest that both participants and courts considered faction fighting as a dangerous recreation rather than riots. Thus, while 41% of Ireland’s 1,932 homicides between 1866 and 1892 were associated with faction fighting, only 8% of the convictions resulted in sentences longer than two years. Accordingly, Irish faction fighting may have had more to do with relatively high numbers of unmarried adult males in a population that drank heavily than distress over British political domination. Anyway, Irish men fought using sticks and brick-sized stones while Irish women struck using razors or stones sewn inside knitted socks. While it was acceptable for a male faction fighter to use his stick to parry a blow from a woman, it was considered bad form for him to hit her with the stick. Fists and feet were another matter -- 2.5% of deaths associated with the faction fights were the results of kicks administered once the other fellow was down, and 5% of deaths were due to infected bites.

Glima becomes a systematized sport in Icelandic church schools at Hólar, Skálholt, and Reykjavik. The reason was not that their bishops suddenly thought that scholars should have fun. Instead, influenced by the theories of Nachtigal and Guts Muths, they simply decided to organize and regulate existing games.


Under the leadership of Shi Yang, the five most powerful crime families in China combine into one giant syndicate. Shi was a former prostitute from Canton who bore sons to one pirate leader, then married that man’s male lover following the first man’s death. Besides defining zones of influence, the new syndicate also created an elaborate series of hand signs, passwords, and initiation rites to reduce the risk of accidental confrontations between unsuspecting fellow criminals. As a result of banditry associated with the various wars of the mid-nineteenth century, these criminal rituals rapidly spread throughout China, and form another link in the chain joining the South Chinese secret societies to the Shaolin monks and Bodhidharma.

An English labor activist named William Corbett argues that Englishmen should practice wrestling and boxing to keep them from descending into Continental effeminacy. While few young gentlemen heeded Corbett’s call, perhaps because they preferred drinking whiskey to letting the claret flow, many young working-class men did, doubtless because they wanted the guinea prize and the reputation that a first-class wrestler or boxer earned.

Tom Cribb, a 24-year old coal heaver from Gloucestershire, becomes the first English pugilist to effectively "mill on the retreat." (This meant he punched while circling away from his opponents.) In 1811, Cribb also became the first English pugilist to engage in strenuous pre-fight training. In this, his mentor was Captain Robert Barclay Allardice. Captain Barclay was a famous Scottish pedestrian, and his program involved abstinence from whiskey and tobacco, a diet heavy in beef and bread but light on spices and vegetables, and the performance of heavy manual labor and sparring on top of walking 18-20 miles a day. It apparently worked, as Cribb lost nineteen pounds in five weeks.

Britain’s Royal Navy begins starting its days at midnight instead of noon. Landlubbers do not follow suit until World War I.

A Scottish minister named Alexander Forsythe discovers that mixing 70 parts potassium chlorate with 12 parts charcoal and 18 parts sulfur produced a firearm ignition system that did not require spark-producing flints. Forsythe went into business with the gunsmith James Purdey in 1807, and then spent the rest of his life defending his patent rights.


Englishman Thomas Ashe witnesses a brawl in Wheeling, Virginia that started with some light sparring, then ended with the Virginian gouging the Kentuckian’s eyes and lips while the Kentuckian chewed on the Virginian’s nose.

The businesses at Savile House, on London’s Leicester Square, included wine cellars, a shooting gallery, a wrestling gallery, a billiard-room, and a coffee shop. Said a visitor, "The click of Billiard-balls, the music of poses plastiques, the thwacking of single-sticks, the cracking of rifles, and the stamping of delighted Walhallaists, all mingle with each other, and it is only by taking refuge in the lowest apartment, which partakes of a coffee-room, a cabin, and a cellar, that you find repose."


After learning that the Polish hussar Aleksandr Sokolov was actually a Russian woman named Nadezha Durova, Tsar Alexander I awards Durova a medal for bravery and a commission as an officer in the Mariupol’ Hussars. Durova continued serving with the Russian Army throughout the Napoleonic Wars, and retired as a captain in 1816.


A Russian riding master describes hunting as the only way to attain perfection in the equestrian art, as it taught the rider to keep his seat while galloping at breakneck speeds across any terrain and over any obstacles. Unfortunately, after beating the French in 1815, the Russian cavalry generals decided to adopt German equitation methods that never let the horse relax, and by 1828 Russian cavalry mounts routinely collapsed on the first march. Nonetheless, the animals sure looked nice on parade.

The English coin the word "guerrilla" to describe the vicious little attacks that the Basques and Spanish made against the French during the Napoleonic Wars. These little wars also gave shape to the modern definition of a nationalist, which is someone who believes that death in battle is better than letting one’s country fall to outsiders.

The military academy called L’Ecole Ste-Cyr is established on the grounds of a former convent in France.

On the plains of north-central China, a government official complains, "There are many vagabonds and rowdies who draw their swords and gather crowds. They have established societies of various names: the Obedient Swords, Tiger-Tail Whip, the Boxers United in Righteousness, and Eight Trigrams Sect. They are overbearing in the villages and oppress the good people. The origin of these disturbances is gambling. They go to fairs and markets and openly set up tents where they take valuables in pawn and gather to gamble. They also conspire with clerks who act as their eyes and ears." In other words, the Chinese boxers had the same motivations and problems as English prizefighters and Brazilian capoeiristas.

About 1809:

Incursions by British and Russian naval forces into Japanese waters cause the Japanese government to regain an interest in manufacturing cannons and other militarily useful weapons. This said, it was the entirely unrelated threat of gang warfare along the Tokaido Highway between Edo and Yokohama that lay behind the era’s revived interest in sword fighting, wrestling, and other traditional martial arts. The gambling syndicate headed by Shimizu no Jirocho, for instance, is associated with the development of Japanese sword and stick fighting between 1843 and 1893.


While in exile in Brazil, the Portuguese royal family creates Rio de Janeiro’s first organized police force. The most famous member of this force was Major Miguel Nunes Vidigal, about whom novelist Manuel Antonio de Almeida said excelled "at stick, knife, fist, and razor play, absolutely unbeatable with blows of the head and feet." Nevertheless, the Luso-Brazilian elite usually associated capoeira with urban gang warfare rather than the forces of law and order. According to historian Thomas Holloway, about 10% of Rio’s arrests between 1810 and 1821 were for capoeira, a term that the Brazilian police defined as "gatherings of blacks, slave or free." Support for Holloway’s interpretation (which is not traditional) includes Bira Almeida’s stories about capoeiristas fighting with straight razors as recently as the 1950s and the apparent absence of musical instruments from capoeira play until the mid-nineteenth century. (The berimbau, or musical bow, for instance, only dates to the 1830s.) While it is tempting to see capoeira as a masculine version of the female-centered sacred dances done in the Brazilian Candomblé religion, there is no clear causal association in either the tradition or the sparse nineteenth century documentation.

North Country (e.g., Cumberland and Westmorland) wrestling is added to the amusements offered during the horse races held in Carlisle, England every September. To attract competitors, Henry Pearson, a local solicitor, awarded cash prizes to the winners. Wrestling started at nine in the morning and went on until dark. The winner of the match (and for the next three years running) was a laborer named Thomas Nicholson of Threlkeld. Nicholson stood over six feet tall and weighed better than 200 pounds. Nicholson’s most famous rivals included Miles Dixon, a powerful woodcutter from Grasmere, and William Litt, a squire’s son from Bowthorn. Of these, Litt is perhaps the most noteworthy; not only was he one of Britain’s rare middle-class wrestling champions, but moreover, in 1823 he published the book called Wrestliana.

About 1810:

Toward deterring Blackfoot aggression, Idaho’s Flathead and Shoshone people begin acquiring firearms from the Crows. As the Blackfeet attributed the firearm sales to the spread of Canadian and American traders, they then began systematically resisting white incursions into the northern Plains. The success of this Blackfoot resistance was the proximate cause of the introduction of annual trade fairs, or "rendezvous," in 1825. That is, due to Blackfoot pressure, it had become far safer for the Canadians and Americans to buy furs from the Indians than it was to trap their own.

The warfare of the Nguni tribes of Natal starts involving more killing than name-calling. Earlier Nguni battles had involved both sides lining up 100 yards apart, then throwing magical weapons, insults, and javelins at one another until it got dark or someone got hurt. Then, around 1810, Nguni battles became savage affairs marked by sophisticated envelopment tactics and the relentless pursuit of fleeing enemies. While this change is often attributed to the creation of new weapons by a Nguni clan leader called Shaka Zulu, it also owed something to the pressure that the Nguni people felt from drought, pestilence, and human overpopulation. (Warfare is usually more popular than abortion or infanticide for reducing overpopulation.)


The famous French fencer Charles-Geneviève Louis d’Eon de Beaumont dies in London. D’Eon had moved to England to escape court intrigues in Versailles before the French Revolution, so unlike many of his peers lived to the ripe age of 87. A notorious cross-dresser who was known to his friends as Geneviève Louise and to his students as Mademoiselle la Chevalière d’Eon, he was also something of a storyteller, as he claimed to have been an important spy during his younger days.

The African American boxer Tom Molineaux of Virginia fights the English champion Tom Cribb of Bristol at Copthall Common, in Sussex some thirty miles from London. Although Molineaux did not know it, the outcome of the fight was prearranged. In the words of Cribb’s manager (and fight referee) Ap Rhys Price, they "must not let the nigger win for Old England’s sake." Therefore, Molineaux lost the 33-round fight after Price gave Cribb two minutes to recover from a knockout in the twenty-eighth. The two men met again at Thistleton Gap, outside London, a year later. While Cribb had spent the time training with the Scottish pedestrian Captain Robert Barclay, Molineaux had spent his time in taverns. During this second fight, Molineaux went down in eleven, and Cribb became the toast of London.

Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo of Dolores, Mexico calls upon Mexico’s Indians to throw off the yoke of Spain. Eighty thousand Indians join his cause, and soon threaten Mexico City. Although the threat to Mexico City ended with the execution of Hidalgo in 1811, his followers continued fighting a guerrilla war until 1821, at which time the Spanish formally recognized Mexican independence. Indians were not given a role in the new government, however, and so two more centuries of political turmoil followed.

About 1811:

Chinese White Lotus sectarians use the phrase san-ts’ai to describe the "three powers" of Heaven, Earth, and Man. Because contemporary White Lotus martial art teachers claimed that the purpose of their martial arts was to teach students to circulate their breath and nourish their natures, I suspect, but cannot prove, that this is a root of the modern Okinawan karate kata called sanchin.

The Sam Hop Hui, or "Three United Society," appears in Malaya. The Sam Hop men were mostly middle-class men from the Three Counties region around Canton. While most were scrupulously honest, a few were gamblers and thieves. The latter practiced oaths and ordeals, and tortured or killed people who refused to pay for protection. In other words, the Sam Hop Hui was a standard South Chinese triad, and almost everyone in it was more interested in making money, honestly or dishonestly, than overthrowing the Ch’ing and restoring the Ming.


A Prussian baron named von Reisswitz invents Kriegsspiel. This is the first war game to use sand tables, realistic troop movements, and combat fire tables scored by umpires. In 1824, von Reisswitz’s son Georg Heinrich adds lead miniatures and realistic topographic maps to the game, and then sells the idea to the Prussian general staff. While these innovations make Kriegsspiel the first modern war game, the tedium involved in staffing Kriegspiel annoyed von Reisswitz’s peers, and in 1827, the young lieutenant committed suicide to escape their ostracism.

Charles Douglas, Marquess of Queensberry, and William Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale, are among the 12,000 spectators who watch the wrestling matches held during the annual horse races at Carlisle. The police preferred wrestling to boxing because wrestling crowds were less likely to riot, perhaps because they knew better than to wager huge sums on wrestlers. (While English lords routinely wagered £10,000 on the outcome of a boxing match, a hundred guineas was a huge bet for a wrestling match.)

Molly Flower and Nanny Gent fight a 20-minute, 13-round, boxing match in Wormwood Scrubs, England. The winner was Flower, who was said to be a good hitter.

A Prussian schoolmaster named Friedrich Ludwig Jahn establishes a Turnverein, or gymnastics club, at Hasenheide, a park just outside Berlin. A strict moralist, Jahn saw Turnen (the term means more than just gymnastics, as it originally included weightlifting and wrestling, too) as a means of building character in boys. An ardent patriot, his club soon became a hotbed of muscular pan-Germanism. As this pan-Germanism frightened the conservative Prussian government, it persecuted both Turners and Jahn from 1819 until 1842.


A Swiss gunmaker named Samuel Pauly patents the first self-contained centerfire cartridges to use reusable metal bases. While the French military ignored Pauly’s invention (Napoleon reportedly said that Pauly’s rapid-firing rifle was the worst weapon that could be got into the hands of a soldier), his design influenced the thinking of the German gunmaker Johann von Dreyse, whose needle guns were adopted by the Prussian military in 1848.


White Lotus rebels trained in ch’uan fa and armed with knives and iron bars attack the town of Tsao, near Peking. Once the rebels realized that the town watchmen were armed with muskets, they turned around and scampered out of town through the far gate. Other White Lotus rebels trapped inside the Forbidden City were equally unfortunate, and Prince Mien-ning and his cousin Mien-chih used their fowling pieces to kill at least four rebels, and their swords to kill several more.

With the support of a French general who had been elected Crown Prince of Sweden in 1810, Pehr Ling establishes the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in Stockholm. Swedish military officers were required to attend this school, and in 1836, Ling, a noted fencer, published a manual on bayonet fighting for the Swedish Army. Ling’s "Swedish gymnastics," which provided the basis for modern calisthenics, differed from German gymnastics partly because they did not put so much emphasis on quantification and competition, and partly because they did not require so much equipment.


The Pugilistic Club is established in London. Patronized by such notables as Lord Byron and the Prince of Wales, and chaired by Gentleman John Jackson, the Pugilistic Club was pugilism’s first administrative body.

Toward protecting what was then known as "the better class of elements" from sectarian violence, the British establish the Peace Preservation Force in Dublin, Ireland. The head of this police force was Robert Peel, and his mounted constables were the first British policemen to be known as Peelers. (While Sir Robert also established the London Metropolitan Police in 1829, the Londoners called those policemen "Blue Devils" rather than Peelers.)

Under the tutelage of Tom Cribb, Tom Spring becomes the second English boxing champion famous for milling on the retreat. That is, punching while moving backwards.

During Australia’s first known prizefight, John Berringer defeats Charles Lifton following a two-hour, 56-round mill. Held at the Sydney racetrack, the bout began with a half-mile run.

While Russian dueling rules required that the adversaries fight to the first blood, the theory was more romantic than the practice: to avoid injury, the adversaries often closed their eyes, bowed toward the ground, and waved their sabers as far in front of them as they could reach, evidently hoping to hit something by accident.

English Protestant missionaries establish stations in New Zealand. Most Maoris were more interested in acquiring whisky, tobacco, blankets, iron axes, and muskets than Christianity, and whalers were better about providing these than parsons. The rate of exchange was 2 hogs for an ax, or 150 baskets of potatoes and eight pigs for a musket. While the Maori mostly carried these muskets for their mana, or power and prestige, they also knew how to shoot them, and Honga Hika, the head of the Ngapuhi during the 1820s, owned at least five muskets and a double-barreled gun that he had his slaves load while he fired. Most Maori firearms were obtained from the Australians, who sold 8,000 Brown Bess muskets and 70,000 pounds of powder to the Maoris during 1830-1831. Besides firearms, Maori offensive weapons included tomahawks, wooden spears, and whalebone clubs. Their defensive weapons included spear-resistant flaxen cloaks and pas, palisaded earthworks that required either artillery or suicidal courage to overcome.

About 1815:

Hung gar (the name means "Red Boxing") wushu appears in Fukien Province. While the name suggests ties to the South Chinese triad societies, it is more likely named after its creator, the southern Shaolin boxers Hung Shi-kuan. New northern styles also appeared about this time. The most famous of these was the mei-hua, or "Plum Flower boxing," associated with the Eight Trigrams rebellion of 1813. While the most famous practitioner of this style was the White Lotus boxer Feng Ke-shan, the name referred simply to the springtime fairs during which boxing was normally done. The nineteenth century Chinese used such boxing arts to improve fitness or health, make money for gamblers or reputation for prizefighters, and attract new members to esoteric religious cults.


The French fencing master Texier de la Boëssière fils publishes Traité de l’Art de Faire des Armes ("Treatise of the Art and Techniques of Arms") in Paris. Its text included the words that were to be used during instruction, and described fencing as an exercise better suited for teaching coordination to children than as a form of practical self-defense.

The Carlisle Patriot advertises a forthcoming wrestling match using a Thomas Bewick woodcut entitled The Grand Match, Carlisle Races, 1813. The earliest precisely dated image of modern Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling, the artist had visited Cumberland in 1776, and while there stayed with a cousin who was a famous champion. Nevertheless, the image was originally satiric, as the two fat men shown were politicians rather than famous champions.


At Saint Helena, the captain of a visiting British warship tells the deposed Emperor Napoleon about the Liu Chiu Islands, an Asian kingdom without weapons. "Then how do they fight?" asked the Corsican. "They don’t fight," came the reply. "You see, they have no money." The essential correctness of this witticism was occasioned less from an intimate understanding of the Ryukyuan Kingdom, whose people were not above clubbing foreign sailors who attacked their women, than a misunderstanding of a Neo-Confucianist ethical system that expected gentlemen to carry their weapons concealed, if they carried them at all.

An English artist named Joshua Shaw invents percussion locks, the first firing system designed to discharge a firearm using explosive-filled caps. The advantage of Shaw’s percussion system was that it reduced the time between pulling the trigger and firing the ball to almost nothing, and worked even when wet. Yet, as Shaw did not patent the idea until 1822, he spent the rest of his life trying to earn money from his invention, which by then was revolutionizing the way that Europeans and North Americans fired their hand-held firearms. Still, fulminate-filled caps were expensive and had short shelf lives, so flintlock and snaphaunce muskets remained popular with European soldiers into the 1830s, and African, Asian, and South American soldiers and hunters into the 1880s.

Sir Francis Ronalds invents the electric telegraph. The British Admiralty refuses to look at it, saying that since the war with France was over, "telegraphs are now totally unnecessary, and no other [signaling method] than the one in use [semaphore] will be adopted."

Muhammad Ali, the Albania-born governor of Egypt, establishes the Islamic world’s first secular military academy in Cairo. While the instruction was in Turkish -- native Egyptians were not welcome in these classes until the 1860s – the original teachers included Spanish and French soldiers who spoke through interpreters. The essentially military role of secular mass education is apparent in the fact that the Egyptian ministry of education was a division of the ministry of war until 1837.


The United States Army orders breech-loading, machine-made, .52 caliber, flintlock carbines from the factory of Maine inventor John Harris Hall. Despite being crudely made and fouling badly, the weapons were adopted for use in 1819. The reason was partly nationalism and partly the realization that breechloaders greatly reduced the risk of ill-trained militiamen firing away their ramrods.

In a letter to Thomas Jefferson discussing plans for building a university in the state of Virginia, architect William Thornton writes: "Let all the Exercises be such as would tend to make great and useful men, and the military Exercises, fencing with the broad and small sword, boxing with mufflers, playing the single Stick, jumping, wrestling, throwing the Javelin and whatever tends to render men most athletic, at the same time that it tends to perfect them in what may eventually be of use, ought only to be permitted as sports in their leisure hours. Thus would I make men of active Bodies, as well as of extraordinary Minds."

The British fencing master Henry Angelo describes a mulatto fencer known as Chevalier de Sainte Georges as the finest fencer in the world. "No man," wrote Angelo in A Treatise on the Utility and Advantages of Fencing, "ever united so much suppleness with so much strength... his attacks were a perpetual series of hits -- his parade was so close that it was in vain to touch him." Although born at Guadaloupe, in the Caribbean, of a French father and an African mother, he was raised in Paris and was noted for his stylish method of humiliating disagreeable fencing masters. Other noted Afro-European fencers of the period included Soubise, who taught aristocratic women (including the Duchess of Queensberry) to fence at Angelo’s salle in London, and Jean-Louis of Montpelier, who taught that "the foil should be held as one holds a little bird; not so as to crush it, but just tightly enough to prevent it escaping the hand." Jean-Louis also trained in France.

With the help of Henry Angelo, John Taylor gets the British government to publish a book called Infantry Sword Exercises. Of the exercises shown, the Edwardian swordsman Alfred Hutton wrote that they "did little more than transmit the lessons as he [Taylor] had learned them, in a style differing not much from that in vogue in the days of Good Queen Bess."

The Carlisle wrestling championships move from the racetrack to Shearer’s Circus. The winner was the 280-pound John McLaughlan of Dovenby, whose favorite technique involved lifting his opponents from the ground, spinning them around, and then throwing them down. For McLaughlan, as for most British boxers and wrestlers (McLaughlan boxed the undercard during Tom Cribb’s matches with Tom Molyneaux), training consisted of wrestling on the village green, working as day laborers, and walking to meets. While most boxers’ dream was to make enough money to become a successful innkeeper or gentleman farmer, their reality was usually a poor house or ditch.


During an exhibition outside Aachen, gloved boxing is introduced to Germany. While the name of the fighters is unknown, they were probably associated with William Fuller, an English professional who operated a sparring school at Valenciennes from 1817 to 1823. But, as most Germans viewed Boxerei as Prügelei, or "brawling," few were interested in playing, which in turn caused Fuller to move to New York City instead. Although some Germans -- notably Otto Flint, Rudi Uzhols, and Adam Ryan -- boxed professionally in the United States before the Great War, when English promoter Jack Slim tried introducing Queensberry rules boxing to Berlin circa 1910, he too met little interest. During the Great War, however, many Germans started boxing for recreation while living in British prisoner-of-war camps. After the war, some returned soldiers continued boxing, and in 1919, a Deutschen Reichsverband für Amateurboxen was established. Over the next several years, boxing clubs were established throughout Germany and Austria, and by 1921, German nationalists claimed that boxing and other Anglo-American sports were the "moral antidote needed to save German youth from further moral ruin now that the [mandatory] military service has been abandoned."


The publication of Ivanhoe by the Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott helps create the Romantic perception of gallant knights in shining armor. Scott’s chivalric ideal proves especially popular in the American South, and equestrian tournaments were held in Charlottesville, Virginia, as late as 1863. (The latter was a Confederate hospital town, and that particular tournament featured one-armed knights who held the reins in their teeth.)

About 1820:

According to Richard Kim, the wife of the Okinawan karate master Matsumura Sokon becomes known as one of the finest karate practitioners in the Ryukyus. As Mrs. Matsumura could reportedly lift a 60-kilo bag of rice with one hand, the reputation may have been deserved. On the other hand, it could be modern myth. For one thing, Matsumura Sokon was born in 1805. Since Asian men typically marry younger women, this means Mrs. Matsumura was likely no more than ten years old. For another, Okinawans usually associate female wrestling with prostitutes rather than the wives and daughters of aristocrats. Furthermore, left to their own devices, most Okinawan women take up dancing rather than karate or sumo. Finally, Nagamine Shoshin did not publish the stories upon which Kim based his accounts until June 1952, which was more than a half century after Matsumura’s death. So perhaps some exaggeration crept in over time. Either that, or the story is part of a Ryukyuan theatrical tradition.

Cape Coloured and European ivory hunters spread horses, wagons, and firearms through the South African interior. While they hunted elephants from horseback, whenever fighting Nguni and Swazi bands, the hunters’ usual tactic was to dismount, fire at long range, then remount and gallop off to reload. South African farmers ("Boers") adopted the tactics during the 1830s, and they proved effective against rifle-armed British infantry during the South African wars of 1881 and 1899-1902. The weapons of these early elephant hunters included English and German double guns. Caliber ranged in size from 12-bore (.747 caliber) to 4-bore (1.052 caliber). With the smaller caliber weapons, a good shooter could consistently hit a board measuring 6 inches by 4 inches at 100 yards, or drop a deer at 250 yards. The hunters fired the big double guns at pointblank range, and frequently required 40 or more shots to kill their elephants.


In James Hogg’s romantic novel called The Love Adventures of Mr George Cochrane, the hero wins the heart of a North Country shepherd’s daughter after winning a Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling contest. From 1827 to 1835, Hogg was an organizer of St. Ronan’s Games at Innerleithen, Scotland; the latter featured leaping, running, wrestling, quoits, putting the stone, hammer throwing, archery, and musketry.


With significant outside assistance -- literary philhellenes included Lord Byron and Victor Hugo, and foreign militaries involved included the British and French navies and the Russian army -- the Greeks free themselves from Ottoman Turkish rule. A heroine of the war was a Spetsiot woman named Lascarina Bouboulina, who commanded ships in battle against the Turks and Egyptians, and took pride in taking and discarding lovers like a man.


In London, Martha Flaherty fights Peg Carey for a prize of £18. The fight, which started at 5:30 a.m., was won by Flaherty, whose training included drinking most of a pint of gin before the match. Female prizefighting was a function of the low prevailing wage rate for unskilled female labor. (Assuming she worked as a fur sewer or seamstress, Flaherty’s prize exceeded a year’s wages.) Attire included tight-fitting jackets, short petticoats, and Holland drawers. Wrestling, kicking, punching, and kneeing were allowed. Women with greater economic freedom usually preferred playing gentler games. For instance, although Eton did not play Harrow in cricket until 1805 -- Lord Byron was on the losing Harrovian side -- Miss S. Norcross of Surrey batted a century in 1788.

The Austrian government runs a series of firearm tests. These revealed that the best flintlock muskets misfired once in 62 firings while the worst misfired once in 15 firings. The same tests showed that percussion rifles misfired only once in 166 firings, were more reliable in the rain, and caused fewer burns. Still, European armies would not replace their flintlocks with percussion guns for another 20 years. Reasons included the belief that what was good enough for Napoleon and Scharnhorst was good enough for their successors.

About 1823:

Pugilism becomes less fashionable in Britain. One reason was a quarrel over betting that caused the aging Gentleman John Jackson to retire. As there was no longer an honest broker, individual fighters were more vulnerable to gamblers trying to fix fights. This led to a rash of scandals. Another was the well-publicized trial and execution of a homicidal boxing promoter named John Thurtell in 1823. And a third was the spread of middle-class Christian evangelicalism. To the Christian reformers, pugilism gave crude pleasure to the rich and the working classes; therefore it was evil and needed to be repressed. Worse, it was associated with homoeroticism, an even graver sin. (During the Regency, heroic nudity had been an artistic vogue, and rich artists and art collectors often paid pugilists to pose for them, and Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin, was notorious for paying pugilists to pose nude amidst his Greek marbles.) The first major fight to be stopped under the new anti-prizefight laws was between Ned Neale and Jem Burns in 1824. Emigrating to America was one of the ways that fighters avoided such strictures, and in July 1823, the New York Evening Post described a bout between an 18-year old butcher and "a man they called the champion of Hickory Street." The stakes in the latter fight were $200, an amount roughly equal to a working man’s annual income. Better known were the battles between Ned Hammond of Dublin and George Kensett of Liverpool in 1824 and 1826. Such battles had strong ethnic overtones, and the practice of tying gang colors to the ropes dates to this era.


Field glasses (literally a pair of telescopes put side-to-side) are invented. Hence the popular, although inaccurate, term, "a pair of binoculars."

George Roland of Edinburgh, Scotland publishes a book called Treatise on the Art of Fencing. In it, he decries the use of the left hand for parrying sword thrusts. Roland’s book is also remembered as the first fencing book to have lithographed illustrations.

Stephen Austin hires ten men to "act as rangers for the common defense" of his Texas colony, and in 1837, the Republic of Texas authorizes the establishment of "a Corps of Rangers" to protect its frontiers from Indians and Mexicans. The unit is disbanded following the Civil War but reorganized in 1874, at which time the name "Texas Ranger" first enters legislation. In 1935, the Rangers were transferred from the Texas military department to the Department of Public Safety, and reduced in number to just 36 men, a number that has since gradually increased to 107. Despite Hollywood, just four Rangers have died in line of duty since 1935, and two of those deaths were due to car accidents.


Young Kable becomes the first Australian pugilist to defeat an English professional. Other noted Australian boxers of the era included Ned Chalker and George Hough.

For a January mill between Tom Spring and Jack Langan at the Worchester racetrack, grandstand seats are provided. This is a first: in earlier bouts, everyone had simply stood on the ground or sat in trees. Although the grandstands collapsed twice, killing one and injuring scores, Spring and Langan still made more money from the ticket sales than from the boxing.

In the fourth volume of Boxiana; or Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism; from the days of Broughton and Slack to the Heroes of the Present Milling Aera, Pierce Egan calls English pugilism "the Sweet Science of Bruising." Egan was a self-educated hack journalist from London. He liked Swells and Heroes, and despised Dandies. He told a good story, and it is possible that his story telling and use of Cockney dialect influenced Charles Dickens.

A French self-defense teacher named Michel Casseux (also known as Pisseux) publishes a small pamphlet that describes the techniques used by French seamen during their brawls. According to Casseux, offensive techniques included front, round, and side kicks to the knee, shin, and instep, followed by palm-heel strikes to the face and eyes. Defensively, hands were kept low to protect groins. Weapons included cane, stick, and flail. In 1831 Casseaux won a fight seen by the Count Alton-Shée, and this led to his system becoming patronized by French aristocrats. His academy was in the Parisian district of Courtille, and according to legend, his high kicks influenced the development of the cancan. A man named Loze also taught the method, known as la savate, in Toulouse, while another man named Leboucher taught it in Rouen.

The world’s first animal-rights group, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, holds its inaugural meeting at Old Slaughter’s Coffee House in London. (Although ironic, the name of the meeting place referred to a seventeenth century proprietor named Thomas Slaughter rather than the animals being protected.) A wealthy New Yorker named Henry Bergh established a similar Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City in 1866.

Experience fighting the Circassian Cossacks causes the Russian Army to begin training special sharpshooters to move on their bellies and fire from behind cover. The tactic undergoes improvement throughout the following century, and when copied by the Germans in 1915, provides the basis for what becomes known as stormtroop or blitzkrieg tactics.

About 1825:

An Iroquois trapper known as Big Ignace La Mousse introduces the Flathead Indians of Montana to Roman Catholicism. Fifteen years later, La Mousse is followed west by the Jesuit priest Pierre Jean De Smet and the Methodist minister Robert Rundle. Due to the bellicosity of most Christians, Father De Smet and the Methodist had a hard time convincing the Indians that Christianity was a religion of love instead of the most powerful war medicine ever made.


Jem Ward of London becomes the first British prizefighter to receive a championship belt. (While English wrestlers had received championship belts for years, boxers usually preferred cash prizes.) Similar belts are introduced into the United States around 1885, mostly as a way of generating interest in prizefights.


After his Janissaries refuse to support proposed military reforms, the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II orders his European-trained artillerists to shoot them down with grapeshot. (Grapeshot consisted of one-inch iron pellets packed into mesh bags like grapes, and then fired from cannon.) Mahmud then set about organizing military academies to train European-style infantry and cavalry officers. The first opened in 1835, and the modern Turkish Military Academy, established in Ankara in 1936, is its descendent. Noted graduates of Ottoman military academies included Nuri as-Sa’id and Yasin al-Hashimi, who were leaders of the post-World War I state of Iraq.

The Bowery Theater is built in New York City. Originally meant to provide recreation for the upper classes, the Bowery Theater quickly became a haven for working-class gangs such as the Bowery B’hoys, Dead Rabbits, Roach Guards, and Plug Uglies, and the prostitutes and liquor sellers who serviced them. As in most New York theaters of the day, liquor sales and prostitution took place in the balcony seats. This practice only stopped after the State militia killed 22 and wounded 38 while quelling a riot outside the elite Astor Place Opera House in May 1849; earlier working-class violence aimed at blacks and Catholics had no such impact on the New York Legislature. Leaders of the 1849 riots included E.Z.C. Judson, an aspiring novelist who published under the pseudonym Ned Buntline.

A drawing by G. Tytler shows members of the London Gymnastic Society exercising at their open-air gymnasium in Pentonville. Exercises and apparatuses shown included parallel bars, tugs-of-war, rope-climbs, individual and partner-assisted stretching, and wrestling.


On a sandbar outside Vidalia, Mississippi, a Louisiana slave-smuggler and sugar merchant named James Bowie uses a large knife to kill a local banker named Norris Wright. Colorful newspaper accounts of their fight start a journalistic tradition in which all large single-edged knives were called Bowie knives. Newspaper accounts aside, the big knives’ more usual uses included shaving kindling, butchering game, and holding the meat over the fire.


Mexican officials describe the United States citizens living outside Austin, Texas as lazy people of vicious character who amused themselves by getting drunk and abusing their Negroes. Therefore they recommended that the Mexican government stop further United States settlement in the region. The result was the War of Texan Independence.

A boxer named Jemmy Butler is beaten to death in a prize ring in Darlaston, England. During this bout, Butler was fighting less for the money than the adulation of the crowd: a year before, he had won a similar bout, and then been carried on the shoulders of his backers four miles to a nearby pub, where he was given free drinks and cheers all night.


The Swiss educator Phokian Clias publishes a popular physical education textbook called Kalisthenie. (The title came from a Greek word meaning "beauty" and "strength.") Clias favored light to moderate exercise, and rejected ball games for women because he thought they required too much use of the shoulder and pectoral muscles.

William Sharples of Philadelphia publishes The Complete Art of Boxing. A 30-page pamphlet, it was the first pugilistic text published in the Americas. Other early working-class boxing texts included Samuel O’Rourke’s The Art of Pugilism in 1837 and Owen Swift’s Hand-Book to Boxing in 1840. (The American edition of the latter book was called Boxing without a Master.)

About 1830:

Okinawan tode starts to be called karate, or "Chinese hands." According to tradition, the creator of the new name was a Ryukyuan royal bodyguard named Matsumura Sokon.

An Italian woman named Rosa Baglioni is described as perhaps the finest stage fencer in Weimar, Germany. German students start fighting with the blunt-tipped swords known as Schläger ("blow") around the same time, perhaps because they were heavy weapons less likely to be carried by women.

Rat baiting becomes a popular spectator sport in Boston and New York. In this event, gamblers bet on how many rats a trained fox terrier could kill in a given period of time. A good time was 100 rats in twenty minutes. Dog fights, cock fights, and boxing matches between women clad only in trunks were also popular, which is why nineteenth century reformers were so dead set against gambling, drinking, swearing, and Sabbath breaking.

Irish immigrants introduce collar-and-elbow wrestling into New England. The style was often used by the Irish to settle arguments, and was known as "collar-and-elbow" after the initial stances taken as defenses against kicking, punching, and rushing. The style became widely known during the American Civil War, and formed one of the roots of the American professional wrestling techniques of the 1870s and 1880s.

To defend his people from Zulu and Boer aggression, the Sotho war chief Moshweshwe equips his soldiers with horses and muskets. Of course, this only policy partially explains why Lesotho was the only traditional African state to avoid being dismantled and disarmed during the colonial period: additional, and equally important, reasons included sound statesmanship, a highly defensible but geographically insignificant location in South Africa’s Drakensberg range, and a fortuitous absence of exploitable resources.


Joseph Smith of Fayette, New York publishes The Book of Mormon. This book provided the scriptural basis for the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. The golden plates and magical stones through which the Angel Moroni revealed The Book of Mormon to the semi-literate farm laborer have since disappeared.


Lucifers, or self-lighting friction matches, are developed in France. These matches used fulminate primers, and careless users risked having them ignite in their pockets.

Rimfire cartridges are patented in France. Rimfire cartridges have their priming compound stored in their rims, while centerfire cartridges have their priming compound stored in a cup in the center of their base. While most modern cartridges, with the exception of .22 caliber cartridges, are centerfire, most metallic cartridges made before 1865 are rimfire.


On War by Karl von Clausewitz is posthumously published in Berlin. More frequently quoted than read or understood, truisms borrowed from von Clausewitz inspired several generations of German General Staff officers to plan their wars as if they were going to be fought in social, moral, and political vacuums instead of Poland or France. But perhaps that says more about the Wilhelmians and the Nazis or soldiers in general than von Clausewitz, for in the back of the book, way past where most people quit reading (the text is deadly dull), von Clausewitz also said, "Every age has its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions and its own peculiar preconceptions."

Partly to improve its soldiers’ morality, partly to appease temperance movements, but mostly to save $22,000 a year, the United States Army begins issuing its enlisted men sugar and coffee instead of rye whiskey, apple jack, or rum. Officers, on the other hand, remained free to show up for duty as drunk as they liked well into the 1870s. (Indeed, into the 1970s for a US soldier not to drink heavily was considered almost unmanly.)

Warning that lack of exercise produced softness, debility, and unfitness, American educator Catherine Beecher publishes A Course of Calisthenics for Young Ladies. And what was the best exercise for a woman, according to Mrs. Beecher? Vigorous work with mop and wash tub. No liberation there. Then, in 1847, Lydia Mary Child, author of The Little Girl’s Own Book, became slightly more adventurous, saying that "skating, driving hoop, and other boyish sports may be practiced to great advantage by little girls provided they can be pursued within the enclosure of a garden or court; in the street, of course, they would be highly improper."

Charles Random de Berenger, an English stock fraud who called himself the Baron de Berenger, opens the Cremorne Stadium in Chelsea. According to his prospectus, the Cremorne Stadium was "established for the tuition and practice of skilful and manly exercises" like swimming, rowing, shooting, fencing, and boxing. As providing tuition and practice in skillful and manly exercises was not lucrative, Cremorne Stadium was turned into an amusement park in 1840.

Jean Antoine Charles Lecour combines English prizefighting with French savate to create la boxe Francaise, or French boxing. Unlike English boxing, which generally led with the left side forward and prohibited kicking, French boxing led with the right side forward and allowed kicking, while unlike savate, the body positions in la boxe Francaise were fluid instead of stiff, perhaps because they were less influenced by ballet and fencing. According to tradition, Lecour’s boxing instructors included Owen Swift and Jack Adams. Unfortunately, Swift and Adams did not fight in France until 1838, nor did Swift publish his Hand-Book to Boxing until 1840. So the attribution was probably due to Swift, a featherweight known as "The Little Wonder," having become internationally notorious as one of the very few prizefighters to ever kill two men in the ring (Anthony Noon in 1834 and Brighton Bill in 1838). Meanwhile, Lecour’s brother Hubert started introducing the methods into the French music halls, often to the accompaniment of comic songs and similar acts.


Comte de Chatauvillard of the Paris Jockey Club publishes Essai sur le duel ("Rules for the Duel"). Under these rules, duels were fought only to first blood. Swords were preferred to pistols, partly because they were less likely to cause fatal injuries, and partly because they allowed trained fencers to display their prowess. Casualties were rare during these duels, causing sober middle-class Frenchmen to conclude that they were fought more for publicity than for honor.

Adolph Spiess starts teaching Guts Muths’ gymnastics in Switzerland. Spiess then develops an entire pedagogical system surrounding these exercises, which he then introduces into Darmstadt, Hesse, in 1848. Therefore, while Friedrich Jahn gets all the credit for developing German gymnastics, Adolph Spiess was the one who actually introduced the Turners into German daily life.

Seventy gymnasts from universities in Zurich, Basle, and Bern hold a gymnastic competition in Zurich. In 1888, the meetings became triennial. (They alternated between the three cities.) Seven thousand gymnasts competed in the 1902 games. The games took four days. The "artistic" division featured running, jumping, and gymnastics. The "national" division that featured fencing, weightlifting, and Greco-Roman and Schwingen wrestling. In the Schwingen wrestling, the wrestlers wore shirts and twilled hose. They gripped each other’s waistbands with their right hands and their knee bands with their left hands. Their legs were extended back as far as possible to prevent the fall. Prizes consisted of laurel crowns and paper diplomas awarded by attractive young women. While mass military drill was also popular with the government and the crowds, it was only introduced to the games in 1891.

The Society of Public Morals is established in New York City. Besides drinking, gambling, and prostitution, activities its members opposed included circuses, operas, puppet shows, juggling, dancing, cock fighting, and horseracing.


The French geographer Antoine-Jean Letronne publishes a strongly anti-clerical article called "On the Cosmographical Opinions of the Church Fathers." This establishes the historical myth about the Vatican perpetuating the Flat Earth theory, and furthers the conceit that the early Middle Ages were a time of profound intellectual darkness.

The Ottomans establish their first secular institution of higher learning. This was a military academy designed along Prussian lines, and its instructors included Lieutenant Helmuth von Moltke, the future head of the Prussian General Staff. To prepare young Turks for their foreign education, the Ottomans soon found it necessary to build secondary schools, and by 1897, the Ottomans had 29 secondary schools housing about 8,000 students. There was significant religious opposition to this military educational program, partly because religious instruction was big business in Turkey. (There were, for instance, nearly 7,000 theological students living in Istanbul alone.)

During a test undertaken at Woolwich Arsenal, British soldiers fire 6,000 rounds from a Brown Bess musket and 6,000 rounds from a percussion musket. They found that a Brown Bess musket misfired 26 times more often than a comparable percussion musket. The finding caused the British government to begin replacing its Brown Besses with percussion rifles.

Johann Werner introduces Turnen to his School for the Female Children in Germany. Girls in Magdeburg begin to be taught gymnastics in 1843, as are adult women in Mannheim in 1847. Competition was discouraged as "unwomanly," and exercises such as the horizontal bar and the balance beam were prohibited as indecent. ("Distance and height are not the point," German educators were told in 1908. Instead, the girls were to strive for "a steady and attractive performance.")


James Gordon Bennett establishes the New York Herald, which was the first metropolitan daily to cover important races and prizefights. The reason was that Bennett increased sales by actively stimulating the public taste for crime and vice. The Herald was also the first metropolitan daily to routinely devote front-page coverage to tales of murder and rape.

The New Jersey legislature enacts ordinances against the "degrading practice of prize fighting." To aid, abet, or participate in a prizefight or a sparring match was punishable by two years in jail and a $1,000 fine. The reason was that fight crowds from New York had recently taken to assaulting New Jersey officials, and this gave the New Jersey lawmen a way to fight back.

John Cox Stevens starts the commercialization of American sport by offering a prize of $1,000 to anyone who could run 10 miles in an hour.

Samuel Colt of Hartford, Connecticut acquires French and British patents that protect his rights to the design of five-shot percussion cap pistols that used ratchets to rotate their revolving cylinders. A year later, Colt acquires similar United States protection, and then commences making his fortune in the small arms business.


The United States Army fights the Second Seminole War in Florida. Although this war is usually portrayed as an Indian war, it was actually a war against African slaves who had escaped into the Everglades. Large numbers of runaway African slaves also lived in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States, where they regularly fought against Texas Rangers and almost as frequently assimilated into the mainstream Indian or Mexican societies.


Toward classifying and arranging the collections of the National Museum of Antiquities in Copenhagen, the Danish museum curator Christian Jurgensen Thomsen publishes a book outlining the idea of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages. European scholars subsequently and indiscriminately apply this typology to all academic prehistory.

The Parisian gunsmith Casimir Lefaucheaux patents a design for a cheap break-open double-barreled shotgun designed to shoot pinfire cartridges. The exposed wires of the cartridges were unsafe, and the crude weapons that Joseph Lang introduced to Britain during the 1850s appalled British custom gunsmiths. Still, the concept intrigued them, and Westley Richards introduced the modern break-open double-barreled shotgun in 1875 after a design patented by Anson and Deeley in 1874.

New York City politicians associated with Tammany Hall hire bullies to brutalize brothel owners and prostitutes who refuse to pay protection money. These bullies were known as "shoulder-hitters" or "roughs." Shoulder-hitters specialized in bullying people into voting the Tammany ticket, or paying protection to Tammany ward-heelers. Although they espoused a code of masculine honor, most preferred beating up old men and raping prostitutes to fighting other roughs. (The practice of New York prostitutes having male pimps dates to this era and this cause. Protection from roughs often cost a brothel $500, plus $5 per month per girl.) Pugilists associated with Tammany operations included Thomas Hyer, a rapist who defeated Yankee Sullivan in 1849 to become the heavyweight champion of America, John Morrissey, a pugilist with a record of burglary, assault, and fixed fights who became a New York State senator during the 1870s, and Honest John Kelly, a bar-room brawler who succeeded the notorious Boss Tweed in 1871. As for Tammany Hall, it was the linchpin of New York City’s Democratic politics. Its vote-gathering methods were as crude as its graft-gathering methods, and during Andrew Jackson’s campaign of 1827-1828, Tammany shoulder-hitters were thoughtfully provided with "Old Hickory" sticks before being sent to opposition headquarters to break furniture and blacken eyes. The Whigs responded in kind, and in 1834 and 1857 the militia was required to quell election riots. Although election violence declined following the Civil War, and the last Tammany boss retired in 1961, New York politicians still maintain close relations with ethnic gangs. In return for money, rent-free storage space, drugs, and/or promises of protection from police harassment, the gangsters broke up opposition rallies, defaced opposition signs, and escorted old people to the polls. "It’s better to get relief from the police than money," one 24-year old New York gang leader told sociologist Mártin Sánchez Jankowski. "But you can’t trust them [politicians] to deliver it consistently."

James "Deaf" Burke becomes the first English boxing champion to tour the United States. (He fought in both New Orleans and New York in 1837.) The reason for the trip was that Burke had been unable to get another fight in England since killing Simon Byrne in 1832. While there was considerable interest in prizefighting wherever there were English and Irish immigrants, Burke found little real competition from the local strongmen he met.


William McGlover opens California’s first brewery. Brewing reaches Colorado in 1859 and Portland, Oregon, in 1860. First generation immigrants were the main customers. Unfortunately, the quality of American beer declined dramatically after 1900, as large distributors and refrigerated rail cars began putting small local brewers out of business.

The Highland Games are introduced at Braemar, Scotland. These games were the progenitors of modern track-and-field, and of professional sports in general. They also helped popularize Cumberland wrestling, which previously had been popular mainly in northern England. To ensure proper decorum, a prize of a gold guinea was awarded for the neatest costume. (Said costume originally consisted of an flannel undershirt and breeches, but around 1860 this began changing to white tights and elastic "center-pieces" similar to bathing trunks.) To ensure equitable matches, four weight divisions were used. Matches only began when the wrestlers had fair holds behind one another’s backs, or five minutes had passed. Victory was determined by best of three falls. Failure to keep one’s hands gripped behind the opponent’s back or touching the ground with any part of the body other than the feet constituted a fall.

Japanese soldiers use gunfire to prevent a United States ship from landing missionaries at Naha, Okinawa. This said, it took the naval bombardment of some Satsuma and Choshu forts in 1863 to start the Japanese thinking about reorganizing their forces after European models. Armed with rifles and drilled as disciplined tactical units, the Choshu armies defeated much larger Shogunate forces in pitched battle in 1866, which in turn led the Shogunate to seek French military assistance in 1867. All this is to say that it was internal politics, not Commodore Perry’s Black Ships, which caused the Meiji Restoration, and the subsequent militarization of Japan.

A Hakka student named Hung Hsiu-ch’üan reads a translation of the King James Version of the Bible, and then dreams that he is the younger brother of Jesus Christ. Although thought mad by his relatives, Hung believes this dream devoutly, and starts preaching it as gospel. Hung found many followers among disenfranchised Hakka, and declared an independent kingdom with himself at its head in 1851. Hung called his government T’ai-p’ing T’ien-kuo, or the "Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace." Unfortunately, the T’ai-p’ing legacy was more bloody than divine, as the ensuing civil war lasted 13 years and caused at least 20 million deaths.

A British official describes Maori warriors as exhibiting "a very general recklessness and indifference to life." The reason was despair over European plants and animals entirely changing the New Zealand ecosystems and the Eurasian diseases such as tuberculosis and syphilis that were simultaneously decimating the Maoris’ families and friends.


Henri Jomini, who served with Napoleon for a time, publishes his Summary of the Art of War. With his books, the Swiss general teaches several generations of European and American military officers the art of winning wars by massing forces on a map. Unfortunately, Jomini’s penchant for reducing warfare to a few trenchant principles didn’t teach his readers much about fighting wars upon the ground, and the result included the bloodbaths at Gettysburg in 1863 and Sedan in 1870. Still, in fairness to Jomini, his goal was to explain strategy (which he defined as "the art of bringing the greatest part of the forces of an army upon the important point of the theater of war") rather than to teach generals how to make rapid decisions on an untidy battlefield.

To reduce violence in the southern United States, Governor John Lyde Wilson of South Carolina develops a new dueling code. The most significant changes were that gentlemen could not refuse a duel because their social status was higher than their challengers, and that fists could be substituted for guns or knives. Unfortunately, as most duelists were mean drunks rather than gentlemen, the new rules only led to eye-gouging, lip-tearing brawls becoming the precursors to gun or knife fights. Such violence was not restricted to the United States, and in 1870, the Montreal Gazette reported that the goal of Canadian logging camp wrestlers was to stick "the forefinger of the right hand fast in their antagonist’s hair, and with the thumb -- as they term it -- gouge out the daylights."

Wealthy New Yorkers begin frequenting "concert saloons." These were the first modern nightclubs. Owners included John Jacob Astor. (While Astor occasionally gave money to temperance groups, his fortune was based on selling alcohol to Indians, and animal pelts simply represented a profitable sideline.) Dance revues, comedy acts, and prizefights were among the entertainment offered. The standards were not high: writing in 1882, James McCabe, Jr., said that in most such clubs, "The liquors furnished are of the vilest description. The girls are hideous and unattractive, and are foul-mouthed and bloated." As for the name "saloon," it is a mispronunciation of the French "salon," meaning "hall." The name moved west during the 1850s, where it frequently graced broken-down wagons and sod shacks. Western saloons that had female employees were known as "Pretty Waiters," while those that offered dancing were called "Fandangos." As for "Hell on Wheels," those were railroad shows that featured boxing, wrestling, dancing, drinking, gambling, prostitution, and balloon rides. Spittoons existed mainly in saloons that could afford bouncers, as in the rougher bars, fighters were too likely to use them as boxing gloves.

The Pugilistic Club replaces Broughton’s Rules for prizefighting with the London Prize Ring Rules. The new rules introduced a 24-foot square roped ring, eliminated seizing below the waist, banned boots with spiked toes, and prohibited seconds from helping a semi-conscious fighter toe his mark at the beginning of a round. Reasons included a desire to reduce serious injuries and death, which drew adverse press.


Archibald, Earl of Eglinton, stages a fantastically expensive medieval-style tournament at his ancestral castle in Scotland. The months of preparation including training the "knights " and their mounts, and organizing the elaborate armory, costuming and set dressing are completely wasted when thunderstorms drench the audience and force the cancellation of events, and Lord Eglinton subsequently limits his sporting interests to women, horses, and golf.

Under the careful scrutiny of government officials, Chinese "water-braves" claiming to be able to walk along the sea-bottom and remain hidden there all night prove capable only of bobbing about in the water like ordinary men. The discovery is unsurprising, since the verified record for underwater swimming stands at 5 minutes, 18 seconds, while the verified record for underwater walking stands at 70 yards in 1 minute, 12 seconds. Therefore it is mentioned mainly as a warning against taking traditional tales of prowess too literally.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Baroda dies. An avid supporter of combative sports, Ranjit Singh’s court wrestler was Sadika Gilgoo, the Man Mountain. Ranjit Singh’s brother Amar was another important wrestling patron. Amar is credited with establishing the Kotewala school, which taught some 400 holds, took several years of full-time training to master, and required enormous physical strength and dexterity. These Indian wrestling matches had no time limits. Their only rules were against blatantly punching or kicking. Victory was determined by single falls. Bouts took place in carefully prepared dirt rings. While rajahs or temples supported individual wrestlers, and betting attracted large crowds from all social classes, the wrestlers were usually working-class Muslims whose families had recently moved to the city from the country.

About 1840:

As the Honourable East India Company gradually extends its control into the Punjab, British soldiers start losing money by betting that their regimental champions could beat local wrestling champions. Said one of the bested Britons, Lieutenant Richard Francis Burton of the Bombay Army, "not a few natives in my Company had at first the advantage of me, and this induced a trial of Indian training." Such matches (and such results) only ended in 1874, when the British government prohibited European officers from wrestling with Indians. Deterring rajahs from wrestling with Europeans was harder, however. "My great-grandfather Shivaji Rao… was a keen wrestler who loved to call people off the streets to come into the old city palace to wrestle with him," Richard Shivaji Rao Holkar told historian Charles Allen during the 1980s. "In 1903 he beat up the British Resident. They said, ‘This will never do, so out you go,’ and he had to abdicate in favour of my grandfather Tukoji Rao III."


In a text on self-defense called Defensive Exercises, Donald Walker describes ways that British gentlemen might protect themselves from ruffianly attacks. "In justice to the reader, however," wrote Walker in a disclaimer that is more accurate than most, "we must observe that some of these tricks . . . are so well known among ruffians, as to be very difficult of performance upon them by gentlemen."

Ben Caunt of Nottingham and John Leechman of Bradford fight Britain’s first high-stakes heavyweight prizefight of the decade. To bring it off, the Chief Constable of Newmarket sends his men in the wrong direction, probably at the request of the aristocratic sponsors of the fight. Otherwise, the long, dull match was of interest mostly because it was the first major sporting event where spectators wore vulcanized rubber cloaks to protect themselves from the rain.

A "Professor of Gymnastic Exercise" named S. Barrett opens the Pittsburgh Gymnasium, which offered to fencing and boxing to adults for $10 annually, and to clergymen and physicians free of charge. The reason for this fee structure was that pugilism was still unpopular with the middle-classes, a resistance that catering to clergymen and physicians would help overcome.


Edgar Allan Poe publishes "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." In its second paragraph, Poe compares draughts (checkers) to chess. "In the latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound." The comparison fits many aspects of the martial arts and combative sports, and probably explains why checkers, a deceptively simple game of angles and traps, is so frequently played in the corners of boxing gyms.

Vincent George Dowling, editor of Bell’s Life in London and a noted boxing referee, publishes Fistiana, or the Oracle of the Ring. This book, the first ring record book ever attempted, told the Fancy that "sparring," or fist-fighting with horse-hair gloves, was "the grammar of pugilistic literacy," and "one of the most healthful exercises by which the vigour of the body can be improved." Prizefighting, on the other hand, was a blood sport. To improve spectators’ viewing satisfaction, Dowling encouraged bare-knuckle boxers to use jabs to the eyes and nose, to block punches using elbows, and to render their opposition insensible through the use of trips and hip-throws. To avoid these wrestling attacks, smaller boxers developed a new, highly mobile style known as the English Upright Style. Here, the fighters stood straight up, with both hands low, their lefts pointing straight ahead and their rights kept over their solar plexuses. They practiced slipping punches to the head, and sidestepped, ducked, or swayed away from body blows. Punching was straight, with the eyes and neck being the preferred target. And it could be brutally effective. For example, during the Lilly-McCoy fight of September 1842, the first to be fought using the English Upright style in the United States, Chris Lilly fought in the new style while Thomas McCoy fought in the old. McCoy was ahead during the first fifteen rounds, but by the seventieth round, both his eyes were black, with the left one nearly closed. Six rounds later, both eyes were swollen. Yet, having his side’s honor (and money) at stake, McCoy refused to quit and drowned in his own blood during the 119th round. Heavier fighters, on the other hand, continued to prefer wrestling to boxing, and the 1849 title fight between Yankee Sullivan and Tom Hyer ended with Hyer throwing Sullivan and then falling heavily upon him.

Captain John Coffee Hayes of the Texas Rangers acquires some five-shot .34 caliber Colt Paterson revolvers from the Texas Navy, and then uses them to blast his way through the middle of mounted Comanche war parties. Mounted pistol work was much harder than it looks in the movies. For example, in 1913 a United States cavalry officer named J. M. Munro conducted a series of four-man mounted charges at dismounted targets using .38 caliber revolvers fired single action. During these tests, the men leaned forward over the right sides of their saddles and fired five shots into four widely separated targets while at a dead run. The lessons Munro learned included the following. First, most soldiers could not get off five shots from a single-action revolver while galloping a horse through a 50-yard course. Second, riders found it easier to shoot targets that were straight ahead than to their flanks. Finally, semi-automatic pistols holding seven cartridges were easier to shoot than single-action revolvers holding five cartridges. (Only fools carried rounds under the hammers of loaded six-guns, and Captain Munro was no fool.) Recognizing this problem, the Indians went about acquiring repeating rifles from the Spaniards of New Mexico. By 1864, most Indians carried Henrys or Spencers rather than shotguns. Nevertheless, even these weapons were not ideal, as the black powder loads scorched the limbs and faces of shooters and if carried loaded, the weapons were liable to discharge accidentally if dropped. They were also terribly expensive to shoot, as their cartridges cost $25 per thousand at the factory, and ten cents a shot on the frontier.


According to tradition, a Chinese man named Kou Tze creates ta sheng ch’uan, or "monkey boxing," after spending several months watching monkeys cavorting outside his prison cell. Romance aside, the name probably refers to the dramatic sword dances done by Shantung peasants possessed by the spirit of the Monkey King, a Chinese literary hero renowned for always being one step ahead of his adversaries. The word the Chinese used for this spirit-possession, ma-pi, means "horse," and probably bears comparison to the similar spirit-possessions reported in the Haitian vodou religion.

With the publication in London of an 1839 Indian medical paper called "On the Preparation of the Indian Hemp or Gunjah (Cannabis Indica): The Effects on the Animal System in Health, and Their Utility in the Treatment of Tetanus and Other Convulsive Diseases," the British physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy introduces England to hashish. O’Shaughnessy was also a pioneer of the Indian telegraph system.

Following several sensational crimes, to include a jewel robbery and a murder, the London Metropolitan Police establish a Detective Division at Scotland Yard. At the time, the organization boasted two inspectors and six sergeants. In 1878, their division was renamed Criminal Investigations Division. By this time, the division had 250 men, 30 of whom were based at Scotland Yard. The first British female police date to the manpower shortages of World War I; sample units include the Women’s Police Service of 1915. After the war, some women continued to work as warders, juvenile officers, and vice detectives, but there were few constables or sergeants before the 1950s.

A prizefight between Charles Freeman and William Perry on December 6 becomes the first to use the railway as a means of transporting spectators. (The pre-fight agreements stipulated that the fight had to take place halfway between Tipton and London, thus necessitating a special for the Eastern Counties Railway.) But as the police could also ride the rails, the illegal mill was rescheduled several times and in the end the fans ended up going to the fight by riverboat.


Toward reducing the frequency of working class uprisings, English academics start advocating public education. The idea was to beat a proper respect for law and order into working class youth. (Without such education, advocates said, young people would amuse themselves by destroying property and having sex as early as fourteen years of age, and by swearing, drinking, fighting, smoking, and singing hybrid Negro songs.)


New York City replaces its old night watch with a full-time police force. Patrolmen wore blue frock coats and copper badges. (Hence the term, "copper.") Unfortunately, their uniform looked much like a British military uniform, which offended the Irish, and therefore, policemen were frequently beaten by mobs. Accordingly, patrolmen began dressing in civilian clothes in 1845. This wasn’t much help, however, as the resulting lack of uniformity made patrolmen hard to identify during riots. Consequently, redesigned blue tunics reappeared following the Astor Place riots of 1849. As the City police were controlled by the Democrats, the Republicans who controlled the New York legislature tried gerrymandering them out of existence in 1857. However, Tammany Hall was stronger than that, and the gerrymandering simply spread Tammany corruption throughout the five boroughs. Until firearms were authorized for general issue in 1886, the New York City patrolman’s usual weapon was a short truncheon by day and a 33" wooden baton by night. Firearm training became mandatory in December 1895, following an embarrassing case of a patrolman shooting at a dog and hitting a girl. The authorized weapon was a double-action Colt New Police in .32 caliber. A factory-loaded cartridge carried thirteen grains of black powder, and propelled a flatnose lead bullet from a 4-inch barrel at about 800 feet per second. Although the cartridge was an unsatisfactory man-stopper, the small size was believed necessary because patrolmen carried their revolvers in their hip pockets rather than holsters. Training took place in a National Guard armory located at the corner of 94th Street and Park Avenue. The firearm instructor was Sergeant William Petty. The course required shooters to fire 15 rounds at targets 2-1/2 feet square from a range of 10 yards. Before training, many officers were afraid of their revolvers. Some scored zero hits, and one was removed from the course after he shot the handle off a gas jet. With training, however, most eventually became marksmen (65 out of 75 points) or sharpshooters (70 out of 75 points).

With the publication of The Three Musketeers, novelist Alexandre Dumas père creates the romantic modern perception of seventeenth century musketeers. The story’s hero was very loosely based on a novel about a Gascon captain-lieutenant of musketeers named Charles de Batz-Castlemore, sieur D’Artagnan, who was killed during the siege of Maastricht in 1673. The real officer seems to have been an unimaginative but very loyal man, and certainly most of the stories told of him are inventions.

In London, an English shop assistant named George Williams establishes the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Williams’ dream was to provide a middle-class Protestant man with social clubs that encouraged Bible study rather than tobacco and gin. And the early YMCAs did this. But when the YMCA moved into the United States and Canada during the 1850s, its leaders found that Bible study did not attract as many young men as the gymnasiums of the Swiss and German Turners. To overcome this problem, most YMCA buildings built after 1880 included weight rooms, gymnasiums, and sometimes swimming pools. Even so, older YMCA leaders such as G. M. Martin encouraged YMCA instructors to teach drill and calisthenics rather than athletic games because they "crushed as largely as possible" any desire to play. On the other hand, younger YMCA leaders such as Alonzo Stagg, Luther Gulick, and James Naismith saw nothing wrong with play so long as it was supervised, which in turn led to the creation of basketball in 1891.

England’s Prince Albert starts a mid-Victorian fad by posing for a portrait while wearing a suit of armor. While this suggests a new meaning to the old vaudeville joke that began, "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" (vaudeville dates to exactly this era, as an entertainer named John "Paddy" Green turned Evans Music-and-Supper Club into London’s first music hall in 1844), Prince Albert tobacco only dates to 1907.


A Swiss chemist named Christian Friedrich Schönbein spills some nitric and sulfuric acids on his kitchen table. He wipes up the mess using his wife’s apron, then places the apron next to the stove to dry. This causes the apron to explode, which in turn causes Schönbein to discover the explosive properties of nitrocellulose (and perhaps Frau Schönbein as well). Subsequent researches in the United States and France involving nitrocellulose resulted in the invention of celluloid plastic in 1863 and colloidal firearm propellants (e.g., smokeless powder) in 1885.

To justify the United States’ overland imperialism into Texas and the concurrent subjugation or extermination of the indigenous populations, John L. O'Sullivan, editor of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, invents the phrase "Manifest Destiny." (His exact words denounced anyone with "the avowed object of thwarting our policy and hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the Continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.") Sixty years later, the German geographer Friedrich Ratzel looked east instead of west, and called the same idea Lebensraum.

The Montesquieu Theater opens in Paris. Essentially a concert saloon, it hosted many important mid-century wrestling contests, including the famous 1852 match between Marseilles the Elder and Arpin, the Terrible Savoyard. Contemporary pictures show French wrestlers as beefy, barefooted men dressed solely in shorts. Outdoors, competition took place in sandy pits. Indoors, the mat was more likely canvas thrown over hay. Stylistically, holds were permitted from the head to waist. Head-butts, chokeholds, joint-locks, and attacks on the legs were not allowed. The goal was to throw or twist the opponent’s shoulders to the ground. As the wrestlers invariably had very powerful necks, the neck-bridge (le pont) was their chief defense against being pinned. The man responsible for popularizing La Lutte Française (literally, "French fighting," but more usually translated as "French Classical wrestling") was Jean Broyasse of Lyon, who wrestled and managed wrestlers under the name of Exbroyat. Other names for the style included La Lutte à mains platte, or wrestling with open hands.


While establishing a paramilitary unit known as the Corps of Guides on India’s North-West Frontier, a British officer named Sir Harry Lumsden begins issuing his men brown cotton smocks. The color of these smocks is subsequently known as "khaki," after an Urdu word meaning "shit."

Boston oral surgeons start using ether to anesthetize dental patients, and for the next seventy years, Massachusetts General Hospital hosts annual tributes to "painless" dentistry. On hearing of this success with dentistry, surgeons at University College Hospital in London also try using ether during amputations. Said an amazed British sawbones to his students immediately afterwards, "This Yankee dodge, gentlemen, beats mesmerism hollow."

After Trooper Frederick John White of the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars dies from injuries received while being flogged, the number of lashes a British soldier might receive as punishment are reduced. Although the reforms of 1881 officially abolished flogging as a punishment, non-white soldiers serving in the British military continued to be flogged surreptitiously until at least 1945.

In Singapore, members of triad-affiliated gangs are reported fighting each other using wooden sticks and iron pipes. By 1867, the gangsters were using muskets and small cannon, and, by 1921, they, like Winston Churchill, were carrying broomhandle Mausers. On the other hand, unarmed martial arts were taught and used mostly as a form of militant nationalism.


In a scientific journal called L’Institut, the Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero announces the invention of a powerful (on a scale of 1 to 100, top-quality nineteenth century nitroglycerin measured 73) new explosive. In 1864, the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel devised a way of mass-producing nitroglycerin, renamed it "blasting oil," and began aggressively marketing it to the North American, Australian, and European mining communities. Unfortunately, improper handling and storage (water vapor makes nitroglycerin horribly explosive) quickly led to a rash of accidental explosions. While this was not a problem for the owners of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Canadian Pacific Railway, who saw no problem with letting immigrant workers blow themselves up (at least 600 Chinese miners died in British Columbia alone), the explosive frightened most non-industrial users. Therefore, to reduce the risk and increase his sales, Nobel developed several safer explosives and powders. The first was Dynamit Number 1, patented in 1866. Dynamite Number 1 consisted of 75% nitroglycerin and 25% kieselguhr, a clay-like soil often used as a packing material. Its relative power index was 62. While subject to sweating pure nitroglycerin, it was still comparatively stable, and it quickly became the standard chemical explosive in the European construction and mining industries.

The United States inventor Richard March revolutionizes the publishing industry (and mass literacy campaigns) by patenting printing presses capable of printing 18,000 pages an hour.

Queen Victoria decides that women who served aboard British warships during the Napoleonic Wars would not receive the General Service Medal. At least three women applied, and many more were technically eligible. Nevertheless, they were all denied. Explained Admiral Thomas Byam Martin, "There were many women in the fleet equally useful, and [issuing awards to women] will leave the Army exposed to innumerable applications of the same nature."

While asking his readers to give up blood sports and horse racing for athletics, the United States moralist Frederick Sawyer writes that wrestling mats, climbing ropes, and weights would "contribute more toward raising us up a healthy, brave, manly, and handsome race of men and women than all of the ‘doctor’s arts and opiates’ this side of the moon."

In The Mathematical Analysis of Logic, George Boole introduces the argument that mathematical logic is different from Platonic or Scholastic logic. According to Boole, Platonic logic used the words of ordinary language, while Scholastic logic used formulas abstracted from ordinary language and subjected them to special rules. On the other hand, mathematical logic was an artificial language. It described a purely formal system, and was distinguished from everyday speech by its use of signs and symbols with narrowly defined functions. From this foundation, Boole postulated that the study of mathematics did not have to be limited to questions of number and magnitude. Instead, mathematics could be entirely hypothetical, and used to discuss any subject, providing that subject were first quantified. The result was also hypothetical, and what others did with them was not the mathematicians’ concern. One unanticipated result of this theory was that future mathematicians could (and often did) practice their art without stopping to first consider the moral or metaphysical implications of their work.

During the War of the Castes, the Mayans of Yucatan rise against their Spanish and mestizo masters. However, they fail to drive the Mexicans from the region after starvation forces them to cease fighting and start planting corn. The Mayans then retreat into rural isolation, where most fall victim to diseases such as smallpox.

During a fair held at Shrivenham, Berkshire, Lord Barrington hosts a prizefight between cudgellers. The prize was £5 to the winner, with victory being awarded to the man who first drew blood from the other’s head.


Because railroaders viewed train schedules as more important than the rights of the Almighty, British trains begin running on Greenwich Mean Time instead of solar time. While the railroaders’ time would not be acknowledged by British law until 1880 or United States law until 1918, it still started Europeans and North Americans to worshipping punctuality, and to examining the interconnectedness of simultaneous historical events.

The German educator Friedrich Fröbel, a pioneer of the kindergarten movement, decides that women are better suited to teaching small children than are men. This makes school teaching the first profession to become associated with status-conscious females from the European middle classes. Fröbel also pioneered the concept of recess, as he believed that playing games (particularly ball games) strengthened the child’s understanding of the difference between having and wanting.

Nitrated paper firearm cartridges are patented in the United States. Their advantage was that their cases were burned during the blast, thus eliminating brass casings. For various reasons, the caseless small arms ammunition was never commercially successful. Therefore there was little interest in the idea until World War II, when the Germans, who were seriously short of brass, experimented with both caseless ammunition and rocket rounds. After the war, German scientists took both ideas to the United States. While caseless ammunition intrigued tankers and rocket rounds fascinated artillerists, neither idea was popular with small arms manufacturers until 1968, when Dynamit Nobel and Heckler & Koch began developing assault rifles that fired ammunition made from blocks of plastic explosive. Small numbers of the Heckler & Koch G11 assault rifles and their plastic ammunition were issued to West German Special Forces in 1990, but plans for mass distribution ended following German reunification in 1991.

Margaret Fox of Hydesville, New York, age 12, and her sister Kate, age 13, report getting messages from the dead via the medium of Mr. Splitfoot. Such allusions to messages from the Devil would have gotten the two youths burned at the stake not too long before. But with the help of showman P. T. Barnum and newspaper editor Horace Greeley, they instead mark the birth of the Spiritualist movement, with its séances and spirit-mediums. The Fox sisters later admitted that they never talked with the dead. Instead, the women only snapped their toes inside their shoes.


A French Army captain named Claude-Étienne Minié patents the Minié ball. This was the first successful pointed bullet. (Technically, it was a cylindro-ovoidal bullet with a hollow base, but "pointed" seems more descriptive.) Besides ballistics research done by a French soldier named Gustave Delvigne, Minié’s sources of inspiration included anthropological research done by a Captain John Norton into the blowguns used by the Tamil hunters of southern India.

During the world’s first aerial bombardment, the Austrians use pilotless balloons to bomb Italian revolutionaries blockaded inside Venice.

British engineers build the first railroad in South America. Its purpose was to carry Chilean silver from the mines at Copiapó to the Pacific port of Caldera.

American settlers headed to the gold strikes in California introduce cholera to the Indians of Texas and Oklahoma. While this kills perhaps a third of all Plains Indians, it takes a combination of disease, railroads, and the systematic slaughter of the American bison between 1872 and 1877 to finally destroy the Indians and their anti-settler lifestyle.

The San Francisco firm of King & Co. sends to Hong Kong for laborers to work in the California gold fields. Several of these men return home in 1850 with fortunes of several thousand dollars each. Inspired, during 1851 2,716 more Chinese came to San Francisco, and another 20,000 followed in 1852, mostly from the Pearl River Estuary. Most of these Chinese were honest men. (There were exceptions, of course; Norman As-sing, who introduced Chinese prostitutes into San Francisco in 1851, comes to mind.) Unfortunately, the arrival of so many Chinese scared European Americans, and in 1852, Governor John Bigler campaigned for reelection on the platform that California was a white man’s country not to be dominated by "coolie laborers." (Coolie is a Hindi word for unskilled labor. Its use in reference to American Chinese dates to Bigler’s election campaign of 1852.) Following Bigler’s reelection, white miners immediately began chasing Chinese miners off their claims. When the Chinese tried to resist, the California Supreme Court ruled that "no Black, or Mulatto person, or Indian shall be allowed to give evidence in favor of, or against a White man," and added that Chinese were included in the prohibition. A federal district court in San Francisco supported the ordinance by refusing to allow Chinese to become American citizens. So by 1855, California politicians such as Charles E. de Long were boasting of hunting Chinese in the night. ("Had a great time, Chinamen tails cut off," wrote de Long in his diary on October 23, 1855.)

By knocking the popular George Hough unconscious in just six minutes, Black Perry, an Afro-British convict, wins the heavyweight championship of Australia. Although Perry won £100 for his efforts, he also lost. After all, he never received another invitation to fight a white man, and died penniless in a Sydney street a few years later.

Henry Bibb, a runaway slave from Shelby County, Kentucky, writes that on Sundays, slave owners would give slaves whiskey. In return, the slaves entertained the slave owners by dancing, playing the banjo, and fighting. "Before fighting," said Bibb, "the parties choose their seconds to stand by them while fighting; a ring or a circle is formed to fight in, and no one is allowed to enter the ring while they are fighting, but their seconds, and the white gentlemen. They are not allowed to fight a duel, nor to use weapons of any kind. The blows are made by kicking, knocking, and butting with their heads; they grab each other by their ears, and jam their heads together like sheep. If they are likely to hurt each other very bad, their masters would rap them with their walking canes, and make them stop."

A prizefight between two New York roughs named Yankee Sullivan and James Hyer becomes the most talked about sporting event of the year. Because the spread of saloons facilitated the discussion of the merits of fighters, the excitement generated by the Sullivan-Hyer match started a century-long American fascination with pugilism. The fight also inspired Massachusetts to ban prizefighting, a law that Boston’s Irish immigrant population happily ignored. To excite the crowds, Boston prizefights emphasized native versus immigrant, and offered purses of up to $300, which was about a year’s income for an unskilled laborer.

About 1850:

A Blackfoot war chief called Running Eagle is clubbed to death by Flathead Indians after she is caught trying to steal their horses. As Blackfoot men frequently rode naked into battle as a way of showing that they had nothing to lose by fighting, it cannot be argued that Running Eagle masqueraded as a man. Instead, it seems to have been common for childless Blackfoot women to participate in horse-stealing expeditions. Cross-dressing men (berdache) also accompanied Plains Indian military expeditions. The cross-dressers provided supernatural protection and the women did the cooking. The Indians were never as sexually obsessed as the European Americans, and ethnographic evidence suggests that most rapes attributed to the Indians were actually done by European or African Americans. (While tales of female sexual bondage to the Indians have been a staple of English and American literature, theater, and movies for 300 years, most Indian cultures require warriors to go through lengthy cleansing rituals before having sex with anyone, male or female. These rituals were taken seriously, too, as failure to accomplish them properly could cause a man to lose his war magic.)

Scottish immigrants introduce Caledonian Games into Canada and the United States. To encourage both wagering and good attendance, the canny Scots made sure to invite Irish, English, German, and African American opponents. Events in these games included racing, hurdling, jumping, pole vaulting, and shot putting; in other words, modern track-and-field.


Samuel Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company introduces the "Pocket Model of 1849," which was the best-selling Colt revolver of the nineteenth century. As these five-shot revolvers had 7-1/2 inch barrels and fired a pipsqueak .31 caliber ball, the suspicion arises that more of these pistols spent their lives in dresser drawers than pockets.

Theater manager A. H. Purdy introduces the spectacle of Amazons, or uniformed women performing close order drill, to the New York stage. Female drill teams remained popular with North American audiences for the next 150 years; just look at football half-time exercises. Even by mid-nineteenth century standards, most of these acts were tame entertainment. In 1852, for example, Hispanic women appeared on San Francisco stages wearing nothing but bolero jackets, garters, and slippers. In 1877, immigrant women dressed in spangled tights and swung on trapezes in Wyoming saloons. And in 1881, "Turkish dancers" appeared on Arizona stages wearing nothing but open vests and transparent pantaloons. Contemporary audiences even enjoyed transvestite performances so long as the cross-dressers kept their place. (Their popularity is suggested by noting that the practice of describing transvestite performers as dressing "in drag" dates to about 1870.) Explained Tom Barrett, a hoofer for Haverley’s Augmented Mastodon Minstrels, "Every show had a quartet, and most every show had a female impersonator… [who appeared during] the second part, what we usually called the big act. That was where some of the boys would put on wench dresses and they would play some fool sketch or travesty." Of course, when the cross-dressers overstepped their limits (as did three male cancan dancers at the Bird Cage Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona, shortly before the Shoot-out at the OK Corral), then they might be dragged offstage and beaten.

An English squire named William Coke designs some close-fitting, hard-domed black hats for his gameskeepers to wear while hunting poachers. Manufactured by Thomas and William Bowler of Southwark Hill Road in London, the hats quickly become known as "Bowlers." Given a steel rim, bowler hats were then used as weapons in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger and the British television series The Avengers. Meanwhile, another English squire, William Penny Brookes, convinces the Wenlock Agricultural Reading Society that it should promote the "moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town & neighbourhood of Wenlock and especially of the Working classes" by awarding prizes for athletic prowess. The subsequent games, known as the Olympian Class, were held annually. Brookes corresponded regularly with the Greeks involved with the revival of Olympiads in Athens, and in 1889, Brookes and Baron Pierre de Coubertin also entered into correspondence. Originally, Coubertin was not too interested in Brookes' idea of organizing international games similarly devoted to promoting the moral, physical, and intellectual development of the working classes, but by 1908, he was claiming to have invented the idea.


After the California legislature passes a law prohibiting Hispanics from mining gold, frustrated Chilean and Mexican miners turn to armed robbery. (Chile provided most of the wheat and prostitutes used by Forty-Niners, while the Mexicans still thought of California as their own.) While most of the Hispanic robbers’ victims were Chinese or Hispanic rather than Anglo, that was not the way that a Cherokee Indian writer by the name of John Rollin Ridge told the story in 1854. That is how we got The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit.

Highland troops serving in South Africa become the first European soldiers to wear khaki uniforms.

With the outbreak of Hung Hsiu-ch’üan’s T’ai-p’ing Rebellion in Kwangtung Province, the Chinese self-defense society known as the Old Cows begins teaching its members special breathing techniques designed to render practitioners impervious to gunfire. This trick found adherents for several reasons. First, the T’ai-p’ing Rebellion had millenarian overtones, and millenarians everywhere have always liked magical explanations. (The name T’ai-p’ing is a shortened version of T’ai-p’ing T’ien-kuo, or "Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace," and described a utopian philosophy that combined eschatological Buddhism with Christianity and Confucianism.) Second, the firearms the Chinese used were among the worst in the world, and even when carefully loaded, they misfired about half the time. Third, Chinese soldiers rarely practiced marksmanship. Therefore, Chinese shooters frequently missed even when their guns did work. Finally, few mid-nineteenth century bullets had the power needed to penetrate the heavily padded clothes that peasants wore, and almost none had the power needed to penetrate the mail armor that rich men wore. (In 1890, Chinese chain vests sold for around US $250, and were commonly worn by tong leaders and their bodyguards. The ubiquity of mail armor is another reason why traditional Chinese martial arts emphasized punches to the head and kicks to the legs rather than strikes to the body.) Consequently, bullet-resistant men probably sounded plausible, especially to people with little previous exposure to firearms.

To describe the treasures of the preliterate past, the Scottish historian Daniel Wilson invents the concept of "prehistory."

William Jackson of Kennieside wrestles Robert Atkinson of Sleagill for the Cumberland and Westmoreland championship of England and £300 (about $2,500). Atkinson won the best-of-five match by dint of size. The victory left the better technical wrestler to return home with a broken spirit and the £5 (about $40) that Lord Carlisle magnanimously handed him for putting on such a jolly good show. About ten thousand spectators attended, almost all carried to the amphitheater at Ulverstone by special trains.

About 1852:

Hand-rolled cigars and cigarettes become popular in London. (Previously, tobacco was usually smoked in pipes or dipped as snuff.) Early makers included Fribourg and Treyer at 34 Haymarket Street. By 1867, San Francisco was another leading cigar manufacturer. Chinese labor was used to make the cigars, and within a few years, one of the complaints of California labor organizers against Chinese labor was that white men should not have to smoke cigars licked by Asians.


"I used to take frequent lessons from one Ned Adams," writes Britain’s Sir John Astley in his diary. "We used to start our boxing bouts with the distinct understanding that we were to ‘play light’; but deary me! it is much easier to intend to do so than to carry it out." Yet failing to play light was bad mostly for Sir John, for whenever he would strike at Adams with power, the professional would respond with a straight left to Sir John’s nose, followed by the admonition, "Well! you see, gov’nor, you ‘it me first, and it wasn’t altogether playful, neither." Said Sir John, "I soon found out that to box well you must have a wonderful command of your temper."

Harvard and Yale Universities hold their first informal sporting competition, a rowing regatta in Boston. The ties between American sport and business were already clear, as a local railroad paid all expenses in exchange for free advertising.

The first Grasmere Games are held in Westmorland County, England. Wrestling and horse-racing were the prime attractions, and to make sure spectators paid their admission, tar was put on the grass except at the gates, and paid spectators were marked with aniline dye. The most famous Grasmere wrestler was probably George Steadman, who won sixty cups and twenty belts between 1872 and 1900.

Chinese miners pushing north from California enter Oregon’s Rogue River Valley. Following mineral strikes throughout the West, they entered Colorado and British Columbia in 1858, Nevada in 1859, Idaho in 1860, and Montana in 1864. The Chinese were usually employed by companies that sifted sand, or that worked claims abandoned by white miners The average age of these Chinese was 15 to 25 years. Their education was minimal, and almost all owed debts to their villages for having sold a pig or mortgaged a field to send them to the United States. Mutual aid societies, or tongs, were soon established in both the United States and British Columbia to support these young men while they found work or to send their corpses home if they died. In San Francisco and Victoria, legitimate charitable organizations included the Chew Yick Kung Shaw ("Luminous Unity Public Office"), Sam Yap Wui Kun ("Three Districts Company"), and Sze Yap Wui Kun ("Four Districts Company"). There were also tongs whose motives were less charitable, sometimes to the point of dumping the bodies into the ocean and filling the caskets with firearms or opium. The latter organizations included Hip Shing Tong ("Hall of Victorious Union", a gambling society), On Leong Tong ("Chamber of Tranquil Conscientiousness", a prostitution ring), and Kwong Dak Tong ("Chamber of Far-reaching Virtue", another prostitution ring). Regardless of motivations, the mythology of the Water Margin stories was popular in all these Chinese societies.


The YMCA opens a "Colored" branch in Washington, DC, and by 1869, Colored YMCAs existed throughout the United States. By training hundreds of African American coaches, administrators, and officials, these YMCAs made sport part of African American cultural pride. Equally importantly, says Arthur Ashe in his book A Hard Road to Glory, "Their play areas became a favorite haunt of generations of black youngsters on Saturday mornings."

Frank Queen establishes the New York Clipper. This was the first newspaper to specialize in covering sports, theater, and other popular entertainment. Queen especially liked boxing. Besides printing accounts of old fights and advertising upcoming bouts, Queen argued that boxing taught useful lessons. Said he, "A knowledge of boxing is calculated to develop and encourage feelings of manliness, confidence, courage, and love of fair-play, and to discourage and check those appeals to the knife and the revolver which are so common in cases of personal quarrels in this country."

The Prussian philosopher Karl Marx writes that "English interference [in India]... produced the greatest, and to speak the truth, the only social revolution ever heard in Asia." In Marx’s defense, this racist statement was a common belief among contemporary Europeans.

The British Army’s School of Musketry opens at Hythe, Kent. Its goal was to train marksmen to shoot targets measuring 12 inches in diameter at ranges of up to 1,000 yards. The idea for developing this school is attributed to an English officer named Augustus Lane-Fox, who, under the name Pitt-Rivers (a name he took upon inheriting 29,000 acres in 1880), is better remembered for changing British archaeology from an antiquarian hobby into a precise scientific endeavor.

Lieutenant Richard Francis Burton of the Honourable East India Company’s Bombay Army publishes a small booklet called A Complete System of Bayonet Exercise. Burton believed that the bayonet was useful mostly for European infantry suddenly ambushed by horsemen or by native soldiers who preferred swords to firearms. It was not used by one man working alone, or in a blind charge, but instead by four men working together in what was called a rallying square. When pointing against infantry, the point of the bayonet was the opponent’s breast; against cavalry, the target was the horse. "The instructor must spare no pains in preventing the soldier from using force, especially with the left or guiding arm," said Burton, "as too great muscular exertion generally causes the thrust to miss." Furthermore, a "trifling body-stab with the bayonet is sufficient to disable a man; and many a promising young soldier has lost his life by burying his weapon so deep in the enemy’s breast that it could not be withdrawn quickly enough to be used against a second assailant." Therefore, contrary to what instructors normally said, the proper use of the bayonet was "more like a dart than a thrust." For his efforts, Burton got a one-shilling copyright fee from the Crown and a reprimand from the director of the East India Company, who did not appreciate mere lieutenants telling him what his soldiers needed to know. Captain Alfred Hutton, a British dragoon who developed a similar system of bayonet fencing during the 1860s, found an equally cool official reception. (Modern British interest in rifle-bayonet fencing only dates to the 1890s. The original theories of British bayonet fencing were based on the teachings of a Florentine saber fencer named Ferdinando Masiello. Although the British troops were originally taught to attack in silence, as was proper in an Italian fencing salle, shouting and tripping were reintroduced into British military training after a kicking, shouting Japanese Army bayonet team defeated a Royal Marine bayonet fighting team in Shanghai in 1904.)

After discovering revolvers, the Black Sea Cossacks, who were busy fighting the Turks in Central Asia, quit carrying lances. Nevertheless British, French, and German cavalrymen carried lances until 1914. This was partly because what was good enough for Napoleon was good enough for them, partly because parade-ground soldiers liked fantasizing about cavalry charges, and mainly because they considered pig-sticking to be glorious sport.


The United States Navy’s East India Squadron steams into Tokyo Bay. Commodore Matthew Perry’s mission included establishing trade links and ensuring the humane treatment of shipwrecked whalers. Underlying purpose included the acquisition of the coaling stations that United States opium dealers such as the Perkins and the Delanos needed to speed communications between San Francisco and Shanghai. After the treaty was signed in March 1854, the festivities included a sumo tournament. According to an article published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in May 1856, "The heralds… summoned the antagonists, and one having taken his place in the ring, he assumed an attitude of defense, with one leg in advance as if to steady himself, and his body, with his head lowered, placed in a position as if to receive an attack. Immediately after, in rushed the other, bellowing loudly like a bull, and making at once for the man in the ring, dashed, with his head lowered and thrust forward, against his opponent, who bore the shock with the steadiness of a rock, although the blood streamed down his face from his bruised forehead, which had been struck in the encounter. This manoeuvre was repeated again and again, one acting always as the opposing and the other as the resisting force, and thus they kept up this brutal contest until their foreheads were besmeared with blood, and the flesh of their breasts rose in great swollen tumors from the repeated blows." Koyanagi, "the reputed bully of the capital," was among the sumotori in attendance.


At Balaklava in the Crimea, General Sir Colin Campbell restrains his Highland infantry, who were eager to break ranks and pursue a retreating Russian hussar regiment, with the cry, "Ninety-Third! Ninety-Third! Damn all that eagerness!" Meanwhile, on the other side of the valley, the English Lord Cardigan decided to order his cavalry into pursuit. Said a French eyewitness of the resulting Charge of the Light Brigade, "It is magnificent, but it is not war." During the same Crimean War, Billy Russell, England’s first famous war correspondent, asks his editor at The Times of London, "Am I to tell [about the incompetence of the British Army’s logistical and medical procedures], or am I to hold my tongue?" Do tell, says his editor. The resulting dispatches shock the British public, topple the British government, and lead to major reforms, especially in regard to press laws.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, becomes the first major city to issue policemen revolvers. But it does not provide its policemen with any training with those weapons for another sixty years.

In New York City, an Englishman named Harry Hill opens a concert saloon at 25 East Houston Street. Although prizefights were illegal in New York, Harry Hill’s shows included boxing and wrestling acts. Most pugilists were male -- both William Muldoon and John L. Sullivan started at Harry Hill’s – but could be female. In 1876, for instance, Nell Saunders boxed (and beat) Rose Harland for the prize of a silver butter dish. A drawing published in the National Police Gazette on November 22, 1879, shows Harry Hill’s female boxers wearing T-shirts, knickers, and buttoned shoes, and showing a scandalous amount of arm and thigh. Harry Hill’s had two entrances. The main entrance was for men, who paid 25¢ admission. The side door was for women, who paid nothing. Hill’s drinks were over-priced and the air was a cloud of tobacco smoke. Other than that, Hill ran a respectable house, and his boxers circulated among the crowd to keep it that way. Reform politicians finally caused Harry Hill’s to close in 1886.

Chinese miners wave American-made spears and swords at one another during a mining dispute in Trinity County, California. This is the first known display of Asian martial arts in the Americas. While reputed killers worked for both sides, the only casualties were drunken American and European spectators shooting or stabbing one another over their side bets. Therefore, legends aside, the first killing clearly attributed to North American Chinese was the robbery and murder of a bank clerk named M.V.B. Griswold in November 1857. American pugilism also appeared in California during the mid-1850s. (Well-known pugilists appearing in California included Chris Lilly, John Morrissey, and Yankee Sullivan.) Like the Chinese, the New York fighters brought their traditions, to include fixing fights and elections, with them. Morrissey, for instance, had his seconds threaten his competition with pistols and clubs, while Yankee Sullivan did the same during political campaigns. These activities offended San Francisco sports, and Sullivan died in his cell five days after his arrest by a vigilance committee in May 1856. The other pugilists took the hint, and left town immediately after.


Roger Fenton of Britain’s Royal Photographic Society becomes the world’s first war photographer. Because Fenton was sent to the Crimea to save the British Army’s reputation from the biting articles of Billy Russell, he carefully avoided taking pictures of unpleasant things, such as the exposed skulls that still bleached along the route followed by the ill-fated Light Brigade.

The United States Navy replaces its flintlock single-shot pistols with .36 caliber, Model 1851, Colt revolvers. The Navy also orders some full-flap sheaths to accompany these revolvers, which in turn makes it the first military to issue belt holsters with its pistols. Military holster design reaches fruition four years later with the development of the British Sam Browne rigs. Still, these holsters were made more for security than speed. The reason was that, as Glendon Swarthout has his fictional Shootist say, "It isn’t being fast, it is whether or not you are willing," that counts during gunfights.

Secretary of War Jefferson Davis convinces the United States government to establish an Indian-chasing cavalry regiment in Texas. The unit (the2 nd US Cavalry) was issued Kentucky horses, Colt revolvers, and Springfield breech-loading carbines, and its officers included Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, and John Bell Hood. The Comanches and Kiowa who lived north and west of the Texas frontier then proceeded to teach these fine Southern gentlemen the art of cavalry warfare, thereby setting the standard for the hard-riding Confederate cavalry of the American Civil War.

Schwingen wrestling becomes part of the Confederation Festival held annually at Lausanne, Switzerland. To reduce the risk of brawls following rules disputes, the Confederation wrestlers banned head-butting, punching, and stalling. These changes proved popular with the promoters, and were published in 1864.


The longest bare-knuckle boxing bout on record takes place in Melbourne, Australia. In it, James Kelly and Jack Smith took 6 hours, 15 minutes, to complete 186 rounds. The longest gloved bout, on the other hand, occurred in 1893. In this one, the lightweights Andy Bowen and Jack Burke fought to a draw after 110 rounds spread over 7 hours, 19 minutes.

To the amusement of all present, an Irish mercenary demonstrates British boxing and Irish cudgel fighting at the Nanking home of the T’ai-p’ing general Yang Hsiu-ch’ing.

George Morse obtains the United States patents for the first commercially successful centerfire ammunition.

Heinrich Utendörffer of Bavaria opens Europe’s first commercial ammunition factory.

Due to a spate of crudely fixed matches, professional wrestling and savate are banned in Paris. This causes the Montesquieu salon to become a restaurant, and many French boxers and wrestlers to move to Belgium, Greece, and the Americas. The most famous savatier of this era was Louis Vigneron, who was famous for firing a 600-pound cannon from his shoulder.


Lammot du Pont of Wilmington, Delaware patents "soda powder," a powerful explosive made from 72 parts low-grade Peruvian sodium nitrate, 12 parts sulfur, and 16 parts charcoal. This revolutionizes North American mining and quarrying operations by making black-powder blasting economical. (Previously it had been cheaper to use laborers than to use large amounts of chemical explosives.)

The Connecticut inventors Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson introduce seven-shot breech-loading revolvers for their recently patented .22 Short rimfire cartridges. These little guns became so popular among Federal officers during the American Civil War that they were reportedly responsible for the subsequent introduction of hip and breast pockets into gentlemen’s trousers and coats.

Joseph Arthur, Comte de Gobineau, publishes his Essai sur l’inégalité des races humanines ("Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races"). This bit of French Royalist propaganda introduced the notion that world leadership rested with the fair-haired Nordic peoples, or "Aryans." The composer Richard Wagner and his English son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, helped popularize this theory in Austria and Britain, while the writer Madison Grant did the same in the United States.

Turkish dueling rules are described as requiring the duelists to hold cocked pistols in their right hands and glasses of raki in their left hands. On command, the two duelists would down the burning liquor, and the one who was done first got to shoot first.

Texas Rangers, United States cavalrymen, and Comanche Indians are reported carrying sawed-off double-barreled shotguns strapped across their saddle pommels. Eight-gauge (.835-inch) was the most popular caliber. British dragoons also used double-barreled 12-gauge guns in South Africa, as they were easily reloaded and capable of blowing men and horses apart at powder-burning ranges.

An anonymous notice in the Saturday Review coins the phrase "Muscular Christianity." The phrase described the philosophy that a perfect Christian gentleman should fear God, play sports, and doctor a horse with equal facility. ("The object of education," said an editorial in Spirit of the Times, "is to make men out of boys. Real live men, not bookworms, not smart fellows, but manly fellows.") While the philosophy is commonly associated with Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes, other important Muscular Christians included Catherine Beecher, who coined the word "calisthenics" and added music to German gymnastics during the 1830s, and Dio Lewis, a Boston homeopath whose 1861 book called New Gymnastics for Men, Women and Children introduced Indian clubs into New England school houses. Lewis has also been attributed with inventing folding chairs, apparently as a way of converting lecture halls into gymnasiums, but this has not been definitively established.

Benjamin Caunt, the 6’2" owner of the Coach and Horses Inn on Saint Martin’s Lane, fights a sixty-round draw with Nathaniel Langham. Meanwhile, a 16-ton bell installed at the Westminster Palace cracked and required replacement. As both events attracted considerable press attention, lexicographers speculate that is why Londoners call the current Great Bell of Westminster "Big Ben" rather than "Victoria," as its manufacturers intended.


Forty-seven battalions of Bengali infantry and several independent principalities rebel against Britain’s Honourable East India Company. While incipient nationalism was the root cause, the proximate cause was a story that the British made their percussion rifle cartridges using cow and pig grease. Since these cartridges had to be bitten open, it was easy to convince individual soldiers that the British were intentionally defiling Indian culture. (Although often thought to refer to the stick that surgeons stuck in a patient’s mouth before amputating, the expression "bite the bullet" actually refers to the way that musketeers bit off pieces of lead to fit their weapons, or to the way that these cartridges were opened.) While the cartridges were not made using cow or pig grease, and the British were not intentionally defiling Indian culture (ignorantly would be a better description than intentionally), the result was a civil war that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. The Indian Mutiny, as the British know it, or the First War of Independence, as the Indians know it, remains important to modern Indian nationalism because it represents India’s only major armed resistance to British rule. Although most rebels were men, the best-known rebel was a woman, the 25-year old Rani of Jhansi. She rode into battle armed and armored like a man, and died of wounds received near Gwalior in June 1858. The Rani’s counterpart on the British side, a woman whom the modern Indians revere much less, was an equally redoubtable Afghan widow from Bhopal named Sikander Begum. The First War of Independence was also important for causing the development of the British theory of "martial races." Martial races were the tribal communities whose soldiers had remained loyal to the British during the rebellion. Most were from Himalayan hill tribes such as the Ghilzai, Gurkha, and Pathan. Tribal leaders received land grants and considerable political autonomy in return for allowing the British to recruit in their communities. They continued to retain these lands and privileges as long as their troops performed loyally. Thus there was considerable pressure on individual soldiers to remain loyal to their employers.

Ambu Goho of Calcutta turns a family akhara into a school of Indian physical culture. (Although most wealthy Bengalis viewed wrestling as beneath them, there were a few prominent families, including the Gohos and Tagores, whose patriarchs remembered that physical culture was the sixty-third tenet of the Kama Sutra.) Ambu then traveled throughout India learning wrestling and weight lifting tricks. Ambu’s son Khetu Babu was a noted wrestler, as was his grandson Gobar. However, ways of making a living from physical culture change. Thus, by 1962, Goho’s Gymnasium advertised special conditioning programs for "men with little time and less opportunity for an active outdoor life" and "ladies and young girls desirous of improving their health and body."

About 1858:

A Schwingen wrestler named Franz Wobmann defeats an English boxer during a mixed bout in Normandy. Wobmann did this by grabbing the boxer around the body and repeatedly throwing him to the ground.


On October 13, an Austin, Texas newspaper called the Southern Intelligencer reports that "It is a common thing here to see boys from 10 to 14 years of age carrying about their persons Bowie knives and pistols." The model for the statement was probably Ben Thompson, a 16-year old typesetter for the newspaper who fancied himself quite the thug. In Thompson’s case, the weapons were somewhat ornamental: while Thompson once fired a shotgun from ambush at a black youth, he did not actually kill anyone until 1865. Texas badmen were much more likely to shoot unarmed blacks and Mexicans than armed anything. John Wesley Hardin, for instance, was 15 when he shot and killed a black man for shaking a stick at him. William Preston Longley was similarly 15 when he shot and killed two black men for dancing in the street. These youthful Texas gunmen somehow always managed to avoid meeting equally notorious black or Mexican badmen. The most notorious black badman was probably Jim Kelly, a rider with the Print Olive outfit in Kansas and Nebraska during the 1870s. The Olive outfit was truly mean, and known for shooting, hanging, and then burning rustlers it found on its range.

The French Navy adopts the 12mm pinfire Lefaucheux revolver. Arguably the best fighting handgun of its day, it never enjoyed the popularity of the Colts and Remingtons used in the American West.

As part of their post-Crimean War reforms, the British introduce Swiss calisthenics into their recruit training programs. In 1862, fencing was incorporated into the British military exercise program; Archibald McLaren of Oxford University wrote the manual, with the assistance of Major Frederick Hammersley and twelve enlisted assistants. There was no corresponding interest in military gymnastics in France until after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Boxing and wrestling were not originally part of these training programs. The reason was that Homer and other ancient writers had said that pugilists made the least reliable soldiers. The American Civil War changed this perception, in part because the war spread knowledge of what had been urban sports throughout the United States, but mainly because the press liked using boxing metaphors to describe Grant’s strategies and Lee’s tactics. Federal units in garrison were especially eager to use combative sports such as boxing or wrestling to prove their prowess or settle arguments. Immigrant Irish from New York were most likely to box, while immigrant Irish from New England and Pennsylvania were most likely to wrestle. Confederates, on the other hand, usually came from rural backgrounds without much exposure to boxing, and when insulted, they usually preferred fighting with knives and guns to fighting with fists.


Harvard University hires an African American man named Abraham Molineaux Hewlett to be its first director of physical culture.

New York State bans prizefights, and places severe restrictions on sparring matches. The goal was to stop working-class men from traveling around the state watching prizefights. The bans cause some pugilists to move to New Orleans and California, where the reformers were not so powerful, and many more to wrestle or box gloved four-round "exhibitions" in saloons. Whistle-stop railroad tours also date to this era. Ed Price, an English boxer based in Boston, was a pioneer of one-night stand boxing exhibitions. Towns Price played in included Worcester, Springfield, Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.

Albert Niemann of Gottingen University isolates cocaine from coca. However, no one knew what to do with it until 1884, when the Czech physician Carl Koller discovered its anesthetic properties. In 1883, the Bavarian Army also experimented with issuing cocaine to its soldiers during their annual maneuvers. While the idea was to get more work from the men, the results were not as good as expected and the experiment ended. Subsequent researches into chemically-enhanced militaries resulted in the introduction of amphetamine powders in 1927, the creation of anabolic steroids in 1958, and the integration of psychotropic drug research with virtual reality computer research in 1991. The Japanese kamikaze pilots and the American truck drivers of the Red Ball Express are among the military amphetamine users of World War II.

A Hellenic grain merchant named Evangelos Zappas convinces the Bavarian-born King Otto I of Greece to patronize an Olympic festival at Athens. The idea was to inspire Greek nationalism and promote international trade. Athletic events held at this festival included running, jumping, and wrestling. The prize in the wrestling events was a milk cow. Fighting also took place outside the stadium, where Greek cavalry and police used sheathed sabers to keep the unruly spectators in line. Although Zappas died in 1865, there were further Greek Olympiads in 1870, 1875, and 1888.

Sir Chandrakirti Singh, the Maharajah of Manipur (a tiny principality squeezed between Burma and India), establishes a horse hockey club at Assam, India. In 1869, the 10th Hussars introduced horse hockey into England, where it received the more dignified name of polo (a Balti word meaning "wooden ball") in 1872. London’s Hurlingham Club Committee established the game’s modern rules in 1874. The British and Indians dominated the game until the 1920s, when first wealthy New Yorkers and then equally wealthy Argentines started surpassing them. According to the London Times, the most respected modern polo player was Maharajah Man Singh of Jaipur, but according to the New York Morning Telegraph, it was instead Long Island’s Thomas Hitchcock. For their part, Argentines doubtless would point to the brothers Juan and David Miles. Major George S. Patton was an enthusiastic amateur polo player, and after his team won the Hawaiian Islands championship in 1924, Patton asked the US Army to encourage the game because it taught its participants the necessity for cool judgment amidst "the exhilarating sense of physical peril."

Sir Thomas Francis Wade publishes the first internationally accepted romanization system for the Chinese language. Herbert Allen Giles, a professor of Chinese at Cambridge University in England, modified Wade’s system in 1892. The Wade-Giles system remained the international standard until 1977, when the United Nations adopted the pinyin zimu, or "combining sounds spelling" system devised by Mainland Chinese scholars during the late 1950s.


kronos 2003