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Germany – Sport and Physical Culture, 1919-33

3. The Golden Age of Sports

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About this Lecture


In this module, we continue to look at the popularity of sports in Weimar Germany ,focusing in particular on: (i) the popularity of cycling; (ii) the popularity of Olympic sports, despite Germany's exclusion from the event for the most of the 1920s; (iii) the emergence of sport as a means of promoting public health; (iv) the impact of sport on standards of beauty; (v) conservative criticism of the German obsession with sport, "the culture of the biceps" as one German stateman put it, particularly in relation to the emergence of the 'New Woman' (Neue Frau); (vi) the reasons why sport became such an obsession in this period, e.g. the increased amount of leisure time available to German workers, a reaction to the stalemate of trench warfare in the First World War, etc.; and (vii) the importance of Willy Meisl's collection of essays, Der Sport am Scheidewege (Sport at the Crossroads) and the contributions of Carl Diem, Bertolt Brecht and Arnolt Bronnen.


In this course, Dr Jon Hughes (Royal Holloway) explores the role played by sport and physical culture in the Weimar Republic. In the fist module, we provide an introduction to sport and physical culture in Germany from the mid-19th century to the end of the First World War, including the preference among Germans for non-competitive gymnastics as opposed to competitive sports such as football or boxing. In the second and third modules, we think about the spectacular growth in the popularity of sport in Weimar Germany, before turning in the fourth module to consider the ways that art and culture responded to this boom in sports. In the fifth module, we think about how and why sport in the Weimar Republic became the subject of political debate and ideological instrumentalization, particularly in the 1930s.


Dr Jon Hughes is Reader in German and Cultural Studies in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Royal Holloway, University of London. His research interests lie in Modern German and Austrian literature and film, and in particular in the culture of the interwar period (1918-1939). He also researches the history of sport and cultural responses to sport and leisure in the German-speaking countries. His recent publications include a substantial, illustrated monograph on the cultural, social and political significance of the legendary German boxer Max Schmeling (1905-2005), Max Schmeling and the Making of a National Hero in Twentieth-Century Germany (2017).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hughes, J. (2021, March 10). Germany – Sport and Physical Culture, 1919-33 - The Golden Age of Sports [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hughes, J. "Germany – Sport and Physical Culture, 1919-33 – The Golden Age of Sports." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 10 Mar 2021,

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