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The football "field" might be a couple of miles long, and go through part of the town. Hundreds of participants might indulge in wrestling, kicking, and boxing, as well as in forwarding the ball toward a goal. The "game," indeed, might seem indistinguishable from a riot. In other parts of the country, however, local customs might induce a somewhat better regulated contest, for local rules differ widely. Other violent sports were equally popular—bear-baiting or bull-running, cudgeling or single stick combat, cock fights, foot racing, were some of the activities that holidays, fairs, "wakes," and celebrations might encourage. So, too, with the dancing, drunkenness, gambling, and sexual license that formed part of the celebration.
Mr. Malcolmson's analysis of recreation in England is not, however, just an anecdotal account. It is a fascinating sociological study, splendidly researched and engagingly written, that not only tells an intriguing story but gives us insight into
King LS. Popular Recreations in English Society, 1700-1850. JAMA. 1973;226(7):797-798. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230070055032