The present text is a revised chapter of my book, entitled The Birth of the Modern Man—published in Hungarian in 2003 by Helikon Press. Concentrating on gymnastic exercises, an emerging umbrella sport in the 1830s—1840s, the aim of the article is to highlight how masculine dispositions have changed in the course of the civilizing process, and how a major drive for change—modern man—was born in the 18-19th century. On the basis of Hungarian data it is intended to point to some universal traits of this process. It is argued that the scene of dispositional competition shifts from the (racing) field into the gymnasium and from adults to children. When for the middle-class citizen the health of his offspring becomes a goal in itself, a social group employs the ever more widely used body-techniques and incorporates self-control in the service of envisioned long-term social mobility. In sum, gymnastic exercises generate revolutionary changes in everyday life, by creating the corporeal foundations of modernity.


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pp. 161-180
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