Wrestling: A Common Heritage Across The Seas

Note: This is a short paper detailing what kind of sources I would use if I was writing a paper about any topic from 50,000 BCE to late 1800s. This was sprung on me at the last second during my history class, as accrediting agencies wanted to see what the general education courses were up to par. It's definitely NOT my best work, but I thought some would get a kick out of it, especially Source #5.

By Connor Dillon

Wrestling is among the oldest sports in the world, coming around as a method to defend oneself against creatures or other people who would harm you. The Ancient Egyptians and Greeks both used wrestling in their lives, as a way to honor Gods and in typical sporting matches. The Greeks in particular would conform techniques for the battlefield and these skills would come in handy when Alexander the Great conquered the known world. Following Alexander's death and the sundering of his empire, wrestling would be used in the arenas across the Roman Empire by gladiators, then during the Dark and Middle Ages wrestling would become used by both landed gentry and peasants, though specialized to combat armored opponents. Later, during the 1800s, two special forms of wrestling would rise above the others. Catch-as-catch-can wrestling, from Lancashire, England, which combined throws with ground grappling and various submission holds. The other was Greco-Roman wrestling, originally called flat-hand wrestling, which was created by a French soldier who served under Napoleon.

Of course during this time period the Americas had been re-discovered by the Europeans and began an era of mass colonization by three of the most powerful European states. France created the colony of New France by creating peaceful pacts with Native Americans that they didn't break. England started off badly in their Colonies, but it slowly grew to rival their southern neighbor, New Spain. The Spanish Crown, who had "found" the Americas after hiring Christopher Columbus to find a western passage to Asia, organized a hostile takeover of the Aztec Empire, leading to the creation of New Spain. The aim of this topic and paper is a look at the wrestling forms of the Native Americans, how far back the history of wrestling in the Americas can be traced to, and what styles became predominant following the Colonization of North America by European powers.

My Sources:

  • 1) Morton, Gerald W., and George M. O'Brien. Wrestling to Rasslin: Ancient Sport to American Spectacle. Popular Press, 1985.

This source would mainly be used in the context of later American usage of the catch-as-catch-can wrestling style that became popular with a large number of Anglo immigrants, as well as the famous American and European wrestlers following the Civil War.

  • 2) Wilson, Douglas L., and Rodney O. Davis. "Herndon's Informants: Letters." Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998) 172: 179-210.

This source has several letters from people describing the strength and skill of President Abraham Lincoln's wrestling. Most of them are stories from the early-to-mid 1800s that reveal how popular wrestling was, as well as the continued use as self-defense. The stories involve legitimate wrestling matches between Abraham Lincoln and other individuals, and the most interesting to me was the one where he was prepared to defend an Indian who came in peace to discuss terms with the leader of his military unit. This source would be used to depict wrestling's popularity over the course of the 1800s.

  • 3) Griffin, Marcus. "Fall Guys: The Barnums of Bounce." Chicago: The Reilly and Lee Company (1937).

It's a time piece that describes the rise of professional wrestling as we know it, though it also talks about how George Washington was a masterful wrestler.

  • 4) Wilson, Charles Morrow. The Magnificent Scufflers: Revealing the Great Days When America Wrestled the World. Stephen Greene Press, 1959.

This book describes George Washington's wrestling career, though it isn't as profound as Lincoln's, there are several interesting tidbits. One such event was when he took out three or four drunk assailants at the ripeness of middle age when he entered his encampment during the Revolutionary War. It is merely to point out how important wrestling was to all social groups during the late 1700s.

  • 5) Hatton, Charles. "Grappling on the Grain Belt: Wrestling in Manitoba to 1931."

This Graduate Thesis is very interesting, and there's too much for me to really put to paper, but in short it discusses the various reasons why two people would wrestle. This would be used to showcase wrestling styles in Native American groups, specifically in Canada.

  • 6) Salamone, Frank A. "Native American Wrestling." The Native American Identity in Sports: Creating and Preserving a Culture (2012): 121.

This book source would be used to talk about what Native Americans in the United States do with wrestling now, what they did do, and why they did it.

  • 7) Chiu, David. Wrestling: Rules, tips, strategy, and safety. Rosen Publishing Group, 2004.

This source is best used as a basic history source, that would support the others in their specific focus. It's first chapter discusses wrestling's history, as well as wrestling in North America pre- and post-colonization.

This scholarly article discusses many of the stories describing Abraham Lincoln's great strength and physical characteristics. There are also plenty of stories, one involving him separating a fight during one of his debates.

  • 9) Wells, Garrison. Amateur Wrestling: Combat on the Mat. Lerner Publications, 2012.

A general history source that describes the rise of wrestling from it's ancient roots to modern day sport.

  • 10) Craven, Jr., Roy C. "An Iconographic Notes: ." Mexicon: News and Study on Mesoamerica. 17. no. 2 (1995): 30-32.

Probably one of the more interesting sources I dug up, this article describes the ancient Olmec sculpture described as "The Wrestler". Discusses significance of the pose and what else it may stand for, without a definite answer.

In conclusion, I hope that any in the BE community that liked this would post below with comments, questions, and the like.

Thank You,

Connor Dillon

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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