Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Stokes of Genius : A History of Swimming by Eric Chaline

Published by Reaktion Books, London, 2017.

Covers very similar territory to Splash! 10,000 Years of Swimming by Howard Means (Allen and Unwin, 2020). Means references Chaline. 

Both cover the theory of "the aquatic ape" - the theory that at some time, human ancestors spent time as water-based mammals, and so swimming has some genetic component. Neither accepts it as it is still open to debate. 

Both books traverse the evidence for swimming in the Ancient World, and through the Middle Ages and Renaissance to the current day. Looks at changes in clothing worn for swimming, bathing boxes, competitive and recreational swimming. 

Means focuses a little more on the United State, Chaline on Europe. 

Neither spend any time considering the role of the public pool in Australia. For that I recommend the ABC TV documentary, The Pool, and Pool, a book which accompanied Australia's official entry at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016. See also Swimming Australia One Hundred Years (University of NSW Press, 2008).


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