Wednesday, 7 October 2015

'Running naked in a publick Road' (1754)

'Last Saturday Afternoon a foot-match was run between two Coal-Heavers, from the Turnpike in Whitechapel-road to Bow and back again, for five Shillings - The indecent Appearance of Men running naked in a publick Road, and the Number of idle People which such an Occasion generally draws together, may not be unworthy the serious Consideration of those Persons in whose Power it is to prevent them' (Oxford Journal 18 May 1754).

A short report of a mid-18th century running race in East London with a lot of detail packed into it. Running of this kind was evidently popular, drawing a crowd deemed disespectable by some ('idle People'). The runners were 'naked', but in this period that did not necessarily mean nude, as in wearing no clothes at all, but rather not wearing the socially expected amount of clothing. On the other hand coal heavers probably didn't have an elaborate range of underwear/sportswear in this period, so they might not have been wearing very much at all.

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