Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.-Allen Guttmann, the Emily C. Jordan Folger Professor of English and American Studies at Amherst College, is the author of Sports: The First Five Millennia ($34.95, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 2005), a social history of the world's sports from pre-historical times to the present.
The subtitle, Guttmann acknowledges, implies some irony: "No one knows enough to write such a book." Guttmann's entertaining prose narrative traces the history of sports, plotting their evolution from "a myriad of particularistic pre-modern forms to the universalistic modern forms now taken for granted everywhere in the world." Guttmann, who initially developed this scheme in From Ritual to Record (1978), adopts a global perspective that includes lengthy discussions of Asian, African and Latin American sports as well as those of Europe and North America. Illustrated with dozens of images, Sports presents a single comprehensive narrative, beginning with a discussion of what does and does not constitute a sport. Guttmann explores the variety of sports played by the preliterate peoples of the Americas and Africa, by the Greeks and Romans of antiquity, and in pre-modern China and Japan as well as in Islamic Asia and medieval Europe. These traditional sports include everything from Cherokee stickball and Chinese kite-flying to Persian wrestling and English bearbaiting.
A member of the Amherst faculty since 1959, Guttmann is also the author of From Ritual to Record: The Nature of Modern Sports (1978), Women's Sports: A History (1991), Games and Empires (1994), and The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games (2002). He received the first President's Award for Sports Studies from the International Olympic Committee in 2000.