The German Community in Manchester, Middle-Class Culture and the Development of Mountaineering in Britain, c. 1850-1914

Westaway, Jonathan orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4479-3490 (2009) The German Community in Manchester, Middle-Class Culture and the Development of Mountaineering in Britain, c. 1850-1914. The English Historical Review, CXXIV (508). pp. 571-604. ISSN 0013-8266

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The German community in Manchester formed the most significant international element in the Manchester bourgeoisie c.1850-1914 and contributed significantly to the city's commercial and cultural life. This study examines German models of voluntary association that linked sport and recreation, education and culture in the context of the Germanophile cultural and intellectual life of the city. Nonconformist élites within Manchester shared liberal and reformist ideals with German émigré groups, not least in the area of education. The German-Unitarian contribution to the kindergarten system, progressive education and the gymnastics movement is examined in some detail. With their emphasis on the whole child, physical education, physical culture and the balance to be achieved between mind and body, these pedagogic innovations were to have a significant influence on the nascent outdoor movement in the region. A number of important implications for the historiography of mountaineering are drawn out. The presence of a gymnastic tradition in the city is relevant to the debates on the emergence of rock climbing as a sport distinct from mountaineering in the 1880s and 1890s. Historians of British mountaineering have tended to characterize the sport as dominated by the world view of the gentlemanly upper-middle class, shot through with the chivalric codes of manliness, athleticism and the exploratory impulse and intent on satisfying nationalistic and imperial preoccupations. This paper argues that, in the context of a regional middle-class sporting and recreational culture, cosmopolitan intellectual and cultural links were just as significant as the dominant national discourse. It opens up the possibility of understanding mountaineering as not just part of an imperial discourse of conquest but also one rooted in the Enlightenment tradition of inner exploration and intellectual bildung.

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