This study describes the origin and development of the sports phenomenon in the industrial cities of Le Creusot and Montceaules-Mines (Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy), from 1879 to 1939. Throughout this period, sports in Le Creusot were totally dominated by associations led and controlled by the manufacturers, whereas in Montceau-les-Mines, worker sports were the object of conflict between industrialists and labor organisations. Such a contrast signals the existence of tight connections at the local level between the history of a place and the way in which a sport develops there. At the same time, these observations suggest some conclusions about historical conditions necessary to the emergence of worker sports activities. Before the Second World War in traditional industrial locations, the presence of a strong, established worker organisation – similar to the Montceau-les-Mines’ workers movement – as well as individual initiatives appear to have been essential. Investigations also show huge conflicts at the local level between “worker sports” and “sports led by manufacturers”. Ultimately this study demonstrates that industrialists and workers’ organisations have very different conceptions of sports. Besides this classic split, local relations between the classes can also influence these conceptions.
By Karen Bretin-Maffiuletti