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Managing the BodyBeauty, Health, and Fitness in Britain 1880-1939$
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Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280520

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199280520.001.0001

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The Fit Male Body, Nation, and Empire

The Fit Male Body, Nation, and Empire

(p.62) 2 The Fit Male Body, Nation, and Empire
Managing the Body

Ina Zweiniger‐Bargielowska

Oxford University Press

The question of national physique was catapulted to the forefront of public debate amidst revelations of high rejection rates among military recruits during the Boer War, 1899‐1902. Military recruitment statistics were represented as a barometer of racial fitness and attention focused on the male body which became a symbol of national strength. This chapter traces the debate about physical deterioration. The Inter‐departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration paved the way for the Edwardian welfare reforms. The deterioration debate further precipitated the launch of new pressure groups and voluntary associations including the Eugenics Education Society, the Empire Day Movement, the Boy Scouts, and the Health and Strength League. In response to the deterioration debate, physical culture and life reform promoters, public health officials, and leaders of voluntary organizations redefined the cultivation of a fit male body as a duty of citizenship and a patriotic response to the needs of the British Empire.

Keywords:   physical deterioration, Inter‐departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration, Edwardian welfare reforms, Eugenics Education Society, Empire Day Movement, Boy Scouts, Health and Strength League, citizenship

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