Academic journal article Canadian Journal of History

Strong, Beautiful and Modern: National Fitness in Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, 1935-1960

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of History

Strong, Beautiful and Modern: National Fitness in Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, 1935-1960

Article excerpt

Strong, Beautiful and Modern: National Fitness in Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, 1935-1960, by Charlotte MacDonald. Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 2013. vi, 240 pp. $37.95 US (cloth).

Strong, Beautiful and Modern is a cautiously transnational exploration of the national fitness movements taking place in Britain and the Dominions beginning in the 1930s. It effectively frames these national movements as integral components of an empire-wide initiative to encourage government funding of physical fitness and sport. MacDonald situates the 1937 British Physical Recreation and Training Act as the founding government initiative that sent ripples throughout the British world. From its example, New Zealand (1937), Australia (1941), and Canada (1943) created similar acts and government-sponsored programs to encourage physical fitness as a means of improved health and performed national citizenship. This ambitious study encapsulating four nations over thirty years successfully outlines how the Physical Training and Recreation Program in Britain, Physical Welfare and Recreation Program in New Zealand, and National Fitness Programs in Australia and Canada all received wide-ranging political support in the interwar period. It was only during World War II that these initiatives waned as Nazi Germany's brand of eugenics-driven national fitness became widely known. While many may view these British national programs as false starts in publically funded health promotion, MacDonald challenges this notion, suggesting that the individuals intimately involved in the schemes of the 1930s and 1940s merely adapted their skills, tone, and approach to meet similar ends in a variety of post-war physical fitness initiatives.

Strong, Beautiful and Modern is a succinct book, accessibly written, which will appeal to the specialist and non-specialist alike. Strung between the brief introduction and conclusion are four case-study chapters that outline the development of each of the four nations under review. This format proves highly informative for those interested in the particular narrative and political situation of a given nation but unfortunately this chapter demarcation does not lend itself to an in-depth comparative analysis of the many thematic veins this research touches upon. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.