The Pro Hoops History Thesis

Georgetown Basketball Team in 1905 (Library of Congress)

Georgetown Basketball Team in 1905 (Library of Congress)

Pro Hoops History has admittedly languished over the last nine months. The number of articles produced has been well below the desired level. There’s been a good reason for that, however. I’ve been busy writing a masters thesis on, what else, basketball.

Today, I proudly release the results of that thesis.

This 98-page barrel of fun focuses on the origins of basketball. This is not some cursory glance at how the first peach basket was hung or the first ball shot.  This thesis looks at basketball like its inventors and proponents first viewed it.

The new game invented in 1891 was meant as a way to foster the proper racial, gender, and social relations in American society espoused by middle-class whites. As you’ll see, these men (and a few women) viewed physical education and athletics as a surefire way for the white middle class to remain superior to and in control of lesser peoples – whether they be black, immigrant, or indigent.

These views coalesced into the sport of basketball and into the idea of amateurism. However, the black, immigrant, and indigent soon found their way to basketball. And some middle-class whites grew tired of the controlling nature of amateurism and decided to go pro. Many of the current debates in sports on sexism, racism, and amateurism, can be found 120 years ago as my thesis shows and explains.

So, give it a spin and I hope you think of basketball, sports, and American society differently after having read it.

- Curtis Harris

Download the Pro Hoops History Thesis – From the Triangle to the Cage: Basketball’s Contested Origins, 1891 – 1910

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Posted in Race, Class, and Gender
2 comments on “The Pro Hoops History Thesis
  1. Adam Criblez says:

    Curtis:

    I read your thesis yesterday and really enjoyed it. I appreciated how you place the development of basketball in the context of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Although I often equate its birth with the concept of Muscular Christianity epitomized by the YMCA movement, exploring how it was also part of a desire for an acceptably non-violent sport extolling the virtues of the white middle-class was eye-opening. Additionally, your points concerning the role of women in its early development definitely moves forward scholarship in that area.

    -Adam Criblez

  2. spinetingler says:

    Aha! That explains a lot about the blog in the last months.

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