by mattpSport and Leisure History Je suis Quinziste et Socialiste: Rugby, Wine and Socialism in the Aude since 1976 Andrew Smith (Queen Mary, University of London) 17 October 2011
Sport can be a passionate thing! This is as true of Rugby as any other but perhaps in twentieth century France we can find such passions heightened. Often overlooked in the anglophile story of the sports origins is the French claim to having created the sport as a representation and aspect of a social identity. Andrew Smith looks at the early days of Rugby in the Languedoc region up to its modernisation and professionalization in the late twentieth century; his focus is upon the parallels and comparisons of regional pride verses national form, in other words where did regional passions about the sport and its focus on moral and physical athleticism intersect with national interests and the story of the French nation and people?
Andrew Smith talks about competing constructions of modernity and romantic memories and images of past activity. The French might not have created Rugby but they built upon it creating new traditions and identities that have become just as much an element of the sport as what the British first intended. In France 1907 is an important formative year, as the so-called wine-riots in the Languedoc moulded its workforce into a more violent and defensive mentality. This mentality crossed over into Rugby as physical athleticism merged with tactics learnt from the defence of the wine trade. The drinking of wine also became very much part of the French experience of Rugby at this time. Andrew Smith’s paper looks into these competing narratives and tries to get to the heart of French Rugby during its formative years and asks what effect that has had on the development of the sport up to the present day.