Despite the popular aphorism that ‘the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton’, historians have been slow to appreciate the value Georgian elites vested in their public schools and public school sport. In fact, the stereotype of these schools as anarchic and pedagogically insignificant still endures. I argue that the schools of this period came to enjoy a growing popularity precisely because of their rough nature. Contemporaries praised the violence of both the dormitories and the playing fields as productive of vigorous future leaders, capable of defending Britain in a world at war. Such rhetoric, I argue, anticipated the late Victorian cults of sport and manliness.
Waite, K. (2014). Beating Napoleon at Eton: Violence, Sport and Manliness in England's Public Schools, 1783-1815. Cultural and Social History, 11(3), 407-424. https://doi.org/10.2752/147800414x13983595303390