‘Beastly Furie, and Exstreme Violence’: Pain, Injury and Death Resulting from Football and Other Ball Games Played in the British Isles Before the Reformation

Hessayon, Ariel. 2021. ‘Beastly Furie, and Exstreme Violence’: Pain, Injury and Death Resulting from Football and Other Ball Games Played in the British Isles Before the Reformation. In: Stephen Wagg and Allyson M. Pollock, eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Sport, Politics and Harm. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 17-70. ISBN 9783030728250 [Book Section]

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The common opinion among English social elites and religious moralists between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries was that football was a violent, disorderly activity played by the lower elements of society. Indeed, there is a bloody red thread running through the game’s early history. From kickabouts with severed heads to accidental stabbings, participants getting killed or knocked unconscious, riots, brawls, quarrels, broken bones and terrible cuts, football once had a well-earned reputation as nothing but ‘beastly furie, and exstreme violence’; a bloody pastime which resulted in wounded men nursing their ‘rancour and malice’. Accordingly, the focus of this talk is on pain, injury and death resulting from playing football and other ball games in the British Isles before the Reformation. That is a large time frame spanning, in the main, from the 1260s to the 1530s.

My intention here is to be as comprehensive as possible while acknowledging that new sources will undoubtedly come to light. Developments during this period will be documented through a wide variety of primary sources – notably parliamentary rolls, close rolls, plea rolls, coroners’ inquests, justiciary rolls, manorial court rolls, tenurial documents, papal registers, chartularies, episcopal registers, diocesan visitations, civic and livery company records, university statutes, financial accounts, chronicles, sermons, poems and early printed texts.

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A version of this chapter was read at the Goldsmiths History departmental research seminar (9 December 2020).

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1 January 2022Published Online
16 December 2021Published

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26 Jan 2022 12:49

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27 Jan 2022 11:34



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