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date: 30 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

It is widely accepted that the Middle Ages are where sports went to die. There is truth in this, but it is far from the whole story. Sports and pastimes were extremely local in the Middle Ages, making them harder for the historian to see. Compounding this, sources of the Middle Ages survive primarily in Latin, a language controlled by a ruling class that was generally unfriendly to popular expressions of entertainment. Sports in the Middle Ages, however, are neither scarce nor undiscoverable. A wide variety of popular medieval games, team sports, and athletic competitions are found in an equally wide variety of historical sources. Taken as a corpus—and including overlooked vernaculars such as Irish, English, and Norse—the sources reveal that societies of the Middle Ages had both a broad array and a deep engagement with sports. It is up to the modern historian to reveal them.

Keywords: medieval, sports, local, Middle Ages, vernacular, Latin

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