“Union Chéron”: Sport in uniform (1906–1939)

Research papers
By Lionel Pabion

English

The Union des sociétés de preparation militaire de France (USPMF) played a very important role in the field of physical education, promoting a model of military preparation that had a heavy focus on sports, with strong support from the public authorities. Despite this federation being totally forgotten these days, and almost completely absent in historiography, studying it can provide us with new insights into the history of sports. Examining the journal Le Soldat de demain (The Soldier of Tomorrow) alongside the archives of military associations enables us to highlight the importance of the idea of military preparation before 1914 and to re-evaluate the constancy of this issue in the interwar years. The union continued to have an impact on sports policies up until the 1930s, in particular thanks to its leader Adolphe Chéron, who was a member of French parliament and even a minister for a few weeks. He fostered networks amongst those from sporting, military, and parliamentary backgrounds. Furthermore, studying the associations affiliated to the USPMF also shows the hybridization of practices within them—a mix of sports, gymnastics, and military exercises—, and makes it possible to reconsider and redefine these categories. Lastly, the USPMF spread sports practice throughout France, especially by way of schoolteachers, who developed new forms of physical education in rural areas.

Keywords

  • military preparation
  • physical education
  • sports
  • military associations
  • militarization
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