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The English School of Chess: A Nation on Display, 1834-1904

HARRISON, EDWARD,GRAHAM (2018) The English School of Chess: A Nation on Display, 1834-1904. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Chess, the first truly universal sport, experienced unique national tensions, as the regularity of international master chess and the presence of foreign professionals in England brought matters of nationality into sharp focus. In continuing the historian’s search for English national identity, this thesis will explore the growth of nineteenth-century chess to examine the implications of these national tensions. It will concentrate on the growth and conceptualization of international master chess, as well as the wider growth of the professional and amateur game. It will consist of four chapters, and will cover an 80-year period, starting in 1834, the year of the first contest between England and France, and ending in 1904, the creation of British Chess Federation.

The overarching means for projecting national sentiments onto the game was through the construction of the English School of Chess. During the period, it was both a representative body of English ability on the international stage, as well as a national spirit of play; an international competitor as well as a distinct national school of thought. The two distinct aspects to its construction allowed contemporaries to use it as both a symbol of national superiority, and a platform for the imagining of an “English” way of playing the game. The former tied in with the conceptualising of international master chess, as writers and players constructed it as a tester of national prestige, while the latter tied into the wider anxieties surrounding the respectability of play that defined the period. The latter followed the same lines as the construction of an amateur ethos in other sports, but was framed and envisaged, against the image of the foreign professional, as innately “English”. Its meaning changed over time, as contemporaries imagined the two aspects to its conception with contrasting significance across the period. The one constant factor was the underlying desire to use its meaning to imagine England as a special, distinct, and superior nation.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:Chess; English National Identity; Nineteenth Century Sport; Amateurism;
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Jul 2018 13:25

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