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Dimensions:
216 × 138 mm
328 pages
Format:
Hardback
ISBN:
9781780238197
Illustrations:
73 illustrations
Published:
07 Jul 2017
  • £15.00

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Strokes of Genius A History of Swimming Eric Chaline

‘Pleasure beckons at the water’s edge.’ With these words, Eric Chaline celebrates the physicality and sensuality of swimming – attributes that might have contributed to the evolution of the human species. Chaline’s comprehensive account surveys swimming from prehistory to the present day. He decodes the earliest human myths to reconstruct swimming’s prehistory and history; he explains its role in religious rituals, trade and manufacture, warfare and medicine, and chronicles its transformation into the leisure activity and competitive sport that together have made it the most commonly practiced physical pastime in the developed world.

Swimming is now a cultural marker that stands for eroticism, leisure, endurance, adventure, exploration and excellence, and latterly, like other disciplines that use repetitive movements to discipline the body and still the mind, it is held by wild swimmers to be a lane to spiritual awakening – one stroke at a time.

There is no single story of human swimming, but many currents that merge, diverge and remerge towards a future in which our survival may depend on our ability to adapt to life in an aquatic world.

Strokes of Genius is so much more than a history of swimming – it is an expertly guided tour of humans’ long relationship with the aquatic realm. In accessible and witty prose, Chaline writes commandingly about everything from alternative theories of human evolution to Roman warfare and bath culture to social tensions piqued at modern pools to the swirling mass of plastic polluting the Pacific Ocean. Arresting anecdotes and thought-provoking insights appear page-after-page and remain lodged in the reader’s mind for later contemplation.’ – Professor Jeff Wiltse, University of Montana and author of Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America

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Eric Chaline has combined writing and academic work with sport and exercise, both as a practitioner and coach. His first book for Reaktion was The Temple of Perfection: A History of the Gym (2015).