Bad sports? Puritan attempts to ban games in 17th-century England

Alistair Dougall describes how Puritan attempts to ban games such as football, wrestling and bowling divided the people of England in the 17th century

Scenes of frivolity in the 16th century. (Culture Club/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine 

When London hosted the 2012 Olympics, the nation united behind what David Cameron described as “the greatest show on Earth”. Four hundred years earlier, in 1612, the Cotswolds hosted its own form of olympics, but, not only was it on a vastly smaller scale, it also took place at a time when, far from uniting people, sports and their celebration were hugely divisive.

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