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Kroppens medborgarfostran: Kropp, klass och genus i skolans fysiska fostran 1919-1962
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2004 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The problem forming the basis of this study is why Ling gymnastics, a product of the early 19th Century, was constantly practised in Swedish state-run schools during the 1950s despite the fact that, from the beginning of the 20th Century, it had been questioned by scientists and faced stiff competition from sport. The thesis approaches the question in relation to the state and the body. Ling gymnastics was conducted in the state school system and the target was the body. The establishment of elementary schools, in 1842, is seen as the starting-point for the building of a modern Swedish bureaucratic educational state incorporating the whole country. Mass education helped to integrate all the citizens into the state and offered an opportunity to eliminate the differences and conflicts that belonged to the old society. However, it was also possible to establish new ones. Up until 1962, there existed in Swedish compulsory schooling namely two parallel school systems, the elementary school and the secondary school, which targeted different categories of pupils.

The aim of the thesis is to examine the role of physical education when it came to raising citizens in the democratic welfare state established and expanded during the research period, 1919 until 1962, when the socially differentiated school system was replaced by nine years of comprehensive schooling. The main question is, from a class- and gender perspective, what type of citizens were to be raised by the subject “gymnastics with games and sport” (as it was known during that period), both in terms of physique and character, and with which subject-matter was this going to happen – gymnastics or sport?

The study has shown that the reason why Ling gymnastics lasted so long was that it was needed until the introduction of comprehensive schools. The establishment of the democratic welfare state required a new population. However, since it was not intended, at that time, for the population to be uniform, tools were needed, with whose help it was possible to mould citizens with both common and different features. One tool was physical education that comprised two forms of physical training, Ling gymnastics and sport, which, from the educational point of view and for sorting purposes, possessed various qualities. Thus, when comprehensive schools were introduced, interest in Ling gymnastics waned, partially because the subject had become more physiological, but also because the subject’s task was modified. When the bodies Ling gymnastics had helped to develop were no longer a target and a partially new form of character education was desired, Ling gymnastics had served its purpose.

On the other hand, special women’s gymnastics, which was launched at the beginning of the 20th Century, had not had its day. This gymnastics was still needed to raise girls into women, however, in a rhythmical and physiological form. Even the gymnastics the boys were to have contained characteristics from the earlier boys’ gymnastics in the form of apparatus work and weight training. The difference was that it had become more powerful training and had been supplemented by circuit training and fitness testing. However, Ling gymnastics, in the shape of independent, constructed movements carried out to instructions in accordance with planned daily exercises, had disappeared.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Historiska institutionen , 2004. , 244 p.
Keyword [en]
State formation, the democratic welfare state, civic education, physical education, Ling gymnastic, sport, body, class, gender
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-295ISBN: 91-628-6301-0OAI: diva2:192086
Public defence
2004-12-10, aulan, Idrottshögskolan, Lidingövägen 1, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2004-11-18 Created: 2004-11-18Bibliographically approved

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