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Muscular Christianity

Muscular Christianity

Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920

Clifford Putney

ISBN 9780674011250

Publication date: 04/30/2003

Dissatisfied with a Victorian culture focused on domesticity and threatened by physical decline in sedentary office jobs, American men in the late nineteenth century sought masculine company in fraternal lodges and engaged in exercise to invigorate their bodies. One form of this new manly culture, developed out of the Protestant churches, was known as muscular Christianity. In this fascinating study, Clifford Putney details how Protestant leaders promoted competitive sports and physical education to create an ideal of Christian manliness.


  • Provides a much needed overview of muscular Christianity and its appeal during the Progressive Era. Clifford Putney's insightful work goes a long way toward correcting the scholarly blindness toward Christianity's role in creating a culture of American masculinity in the late nineteenth century and toward understanding its apparent replacement by (among other things) a secular gospel of health in the twentieth. He contributes to the literature on masculinity in crucial ways, blending new data with information previously brought to light in other works and helping us see the latter from a fresh perspective. A work that highlights the religious character of American masculinity during the Progressive Era is a welcome addition to the literature, one that scholars from a wide variety of fields will want to read.

    —Marie Griffith, Princeton University


  • Clifford Putney is Assistant Professor of History at Bentley College.

Book Details

  • 310 pages
  • 0-15/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press