- Physical education for citizenship or humanity? Freethinkers and natural education in the Netherlands in the mid-nineteenth century
- History of Education
- Volume | Issue number
- 41 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE)
Studies in the history of physical education show that it was often promoted for socio-political reasons: to stimulate nation-building or increase economic productivity and/or military strength. By contrast, a different kind of motivation has received little attention in historical studies: the importance of physical education for the perfection of the individual, as expressed by the German neohumanistic word ‘Bildung’. This article presents a case study in which the debate on the importance of physical education in the Netherlands in the mid-nineteenth century is examined. Ideas on the importance of Bildung in physical education especially existed within the freethinkers’ movement. With arguments derived from their naturalistic worldview, freethinkers contested educational approaches that obstructed the natural development of the child. This case study aims to contribute to a better insight into the history of physical education in the Netherlands and into the diversity of reasons for promoting physical education in the past.
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