The Field

When you read old skating books (or this blog), the Field comes up a lot. This post explains what it is and why it’s important for skating history.

The Field’s logo. Image © The British Library Board. Courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive.

The Field began in 1853 as a weekly magazine in 1853 aimed at rich men with estates in the country. They apparently needed advice on a variety of sporting matters—hunting, fishing, yachting, shooting—as well as agriculture and investments. Winter issues included regular columns on skating.

These columns are fascinating for anyone with a geeky interest in skating around the turn of the previous century. They include reports on competitions, tests passed, and meetings of the National Skating Association. The big names in the development of figure skating reported their new discoveries, like counters and rockers. Debates raged over what to call turns, how figures should be skated, and, later on, whether the English style or the International style was superior. Skaters who had traveled abroad to train related the details of their experiences. Sometimes, they included photographs or (more often) diagrams. Historic books about skating occasionally refer to articles published in the Field, making it an important part of skating history.

Its short and vague title makes the Field difficult to find in library catalogs. The best source for it I’ve found is the British Newspaper Archive, which has all issues from 1853 to 1911 (except 1857 and 1864) in a searchable format. The search function isn’t perfect, but it is much better than paging through heavy volumes of crumbling newsprint by hand. The main drawback is that the site requires a subscription fee.

Although the Field is still published today, you won’t find anything about skating in it!

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