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Abstract

The complicated shifts in power and status that took place between Britain, France and the United States in the years immediately preceding the First World War resulted in anxious self-examination and a series of identity crises whose social, cultural and political ramifications would be felt for decades to come. This was also a boom time for boxing, and one that was distinguished by a lively debate about the pros and cons of the “English” and “American” styles. This paper argues that these detailed deliberations about sporting technique often exposed a more general disquiet about national strengths and vulnerabilities and about the pre-war balance of power. A consideration of straight lefts and slogging ruffians tells us something about the issues at stake.