A great weight lifted the history of the British Amateur Weight-lifting Association

Lucy Boucher, Conor Heffernan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite its longevity as an Olympic sport, Olympic weight-lifting has yet to receive sustained scholarly attention, an observation made all the more confusing when one considers weight-lifting’s inclusion at the 1896 Olympic Games and its rich nineteenth century history. The dearth of studies on weight-lifting outside of the United States can be found in the paucity of histories on individual national federations. This is certainly the case in Great Britain where BAWLA (the British Amateur Weight-lifting Association) was founded in the early 1900s. This article provides the first comprehensive history of BAWLA’s foundation and, in doing so, establishes the reliance that British weight-lifting had on European weight-lifting in terms of athletes, organisers and inspiration. In doing so it tracks the shift from strength performances in an informal setting (music halls, gyms, circuses etc.) to standardised sporting practices. First founded in 1901, BAWLA ceased operating before re-emerging in the 1910s. The purpose of this article is two-fold. First it discusses BAWLA’s creation (in both instances) and, more importantly, highlights its European relationships. The article thus stresses the transnational influences existing in British weight-lifting and physical culture during this period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalSport in History
Early online date22 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 22 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • British Amateur Weight-lifting Association
  • weight-lifting
  • British history
  • physical culture
  • sporting federations


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