Strong, Beautiful and Modern
National Fitness in Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, 1935-1960
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, a wave of state-sponsored “national fitness” programs swept Britain and its former settler colonies. Following revelations of Nazi enthusiasm for government-backed sports and the organization of mass leisure, the programs quickly foundered. They are attributed, however, with laying the foundations for the twentieth century’s obsession with fitness — a key facet of modern life.
In this highly original account, Charlotte Macdonald shows how governments became convinced they must encourage citizens to be healthier and more active, and how these efforts reinforced the cultural ties of the Empire. Alongside these state-sponsored efforts was a growing emphasis from business, the medical establishment, and popular culture on the importance of having “a better body.”
Strong, Beautiful and Modern explains the origins of the modern preoccupation with “the body.” At a time when government concern over public health issues such as obesity is once again on the rise, this work offers valuable lessons as to why the first national fitness drive was ultimately a failure.
Drawing on extensive research, Strong, Beautiful and Modern is a lively investigation into the way people and their governments think about health and well-being, and how historical views have shaped our modern life.
- 2012, Short-listed - Ernest Scott Prize
- 2012, Winner - The Ian Wards Prize, Archives and Records Association of New Zealand (ARANZ)
Strong, Beautiful and Modern is an outstanding book: fresh, original and panoramic.
In Strong, Beautiful and Modern, Charlotte Macdonald provides an insightful corrective to previous accounts that have largely focused on domestic developments and writes eloquently about the ideologies of the body. An impressive feat of comparative scholarship.
1 Movement is Life: National Fitness in England and Scotland
2 Leisure and Democracy: Physical Welfare as the People’s Entitlement in New Zealand
3 Education or Health? National Fitness in New South Wales and Across Australia
4 Fitness for War and a Changed World: National Fitness in Canada
5 Healthy Bodies, States and Modernity: A Twentieth-Century Dilemma
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