Promoting the Swedish method of physical education throughout France for the benefit of public health (1868–1954)

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This article examines the cultural and public health challenges associated with the dissemination of the Swedish approach and methods of physical education throughout France and illustrates the two main methods of influence, both direct through research and study visits and indirect through the creation of an international network entitled the International Federation of Physical Education. More particularly, it studies the roles of Philippe Tissié in 1898 and Pierre Seurin in 1946, and shows how these two major players of French physical education contributed actively to strengthening Swedish influence throughout France. It also highlights their equally essential role in the successful implementation of a pro-Swedish network in France, intended to serve their public health aims. This analysis forms part of the geopolitical and socio-cultural history of foreign physical education models, whose exemplarity was mainly dependent on Franco-Swedish relations and the models' social representations. Using archives from the French Physical Education League, travel logs and theRevue des jeux scolaires et d'hygiène sociale (Journal for School Games and Social Hygiene), it has been shown why the myth of the Swedish Eldorado contributed to creating, in France, “a work of art and of science that was, at the same time, both national and practical.”

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