- “Manufactured” Masculinity
James Anthony (Tony) Mangan has always been above all things a cultural historian and scholar, concerned with sport as a central component of modern global cultural expression. As such he has made prolific and key contributions to its study, with a particular fascination for the social and cultural processes through which masculine identities have been shaped. His early work focused on pupils at Victorian and Edwardian nominally “public” yet actually private, fee-paying boarding schools for the privileged. The gendering of personality, patterns of authority, classroom and playing field interactions, and the curriculum were all addressed. The overall approach was different to all previous work. He soon extended his research interests outward from the public schools into the British Empire and beyond. Over the past forty years and more, he has been producing innovative, sophisticated, and highly influential work, dissecting with impressive scholarly precision and meticulous acumen the complex ways in which athleticism, masculinity, morality, and imperialism inter-related.
The last thirty years has seen the rise and, sometimes too, the fall of numerous “new” histories, but as cultural historian Peter Burke has remarked, “the encounter between historians and anthropologists inspired some of the most significant innovations in cultural history in the 1970s and 1980s.”1 Back in 1982, Theodore K. Rabb and Robert I. Rotberg published their edited collection, The New History, that encouraged a fresh, striking and [End Page 147] more interdisciplinary approach to historical narrative, based on the intersection of social history, cultural and social anthropology and sociology.2 Mangan, a social anthropologist and sociologist by early training, was a precursor of this then “new” approach, demonstrating an adept ability to exploit his cultural anthropological insights and well as his social historical and sociological strengths. His awareness of the powerful functions of rituals, symbols, ceremonies and special dress within school communities were one early example, and he constantly drew implicitly on aspects of cultural, social and philosophical anthropology. He soon sought, like Margaret Mead, to take a cross-cultural perspective, highlighting masculinity’s multiple meanings and diverse representations, and the complexities of athleticism’s adoptions, contestations, and transformations in non-Western cultures.
For several decades Mangan’s ground-breaking studies of the manifestations of masculinity have been exceptional in their quality, range, and volume, and acknowledged as such by all leading scholars. His internationally acclaimed and pioneering monograph on athleticism in the Victorian and Edwardian public schools, a period when new ones were created, and older ones consolidated, was first published in 1981 and has been regularly republished since.3 It argued that in these class-segregated settings sport was adopted for a variety of reasons, but adaptation significantly varied from school to school. Athleticism (the “games ethic”) initially, as Mangan made clear, was employed by heads as a pragmatic tool rather than an ideological construct and was introduced to redeem the poor public reputation of their schools. The mantra of “fair play” was adopted to help turn their savage “hooligans” into sporting heroes. This “games ethic” soon became a conveyor-belt philosophy, a cultural set of attitudes, in which team games, especially cricket and various forms of football, were advocated for their “manly” virtues and promoted as a way of ensuring schools turned their privileged adolescent pupils into particular, “right sorts” of men. The ethic subsequently became central to middle-class constructions of masculinity as the public schools became increasingly successful in shifting the codes of manliness amongst their various upper-and upper-middle class client groups towards athleticism as a means of leadership training, though, as he recognizes broader social, economic, and cultural developments in British society also contributed to its spread. Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in Britain but also the British Empire and beyond, the term “manly” became most frequently associated with “games” and associated with masculine moral “virtues.”4
Over time a specific form of gendered masculinity emerged within the public schools, “closed institutions,” whose “old boys” (a term potently indicative of the ways in which attitudes learned in boyhood continued into their adult life...