The history of badminton can be traced back to various games employing a ‘shuttlecock’ – the recognisable feathered ball used in the game – some of which have been played across Eurasia for centuries. In 19th century Britain, a game called ‘battledore and shuttlecock’ was popular. ‘Battledore’ was an early name for a racket. The game was played without a net and had no standardised rules, but its similarities make it a likely predecessor to the badminton sport that is played today.
Badminton’s Cloudy Origins
The history of badminton does not tell us of its exact origin, but the origin of the word ‘badminton’ is not in dispute; it refers to the Duke of Beaufort’s Badminton House in Gloucester. What isn’t known is why the house lent its name to the sport in the first place. In the early 1860s, the sport was given its name, being distinguished from ‘battledore and shuttlecocks’ in that it was played over a suspended net.
It is likely that the game was created by the British living in India in the middle of the 19th century. There, a similar game called ‘ball badminton’ was played interchangeably with badminton. It employed a woollen ball instead of a shuttlecock. Badminton was particularly popular in the Indian garrison town of Puna, where the first rules were set to paper. Returning officers brought the game to Britain and the first badminton club was established in Folkestone in the 1870s.
Badminton Rules and Regulations
The history of badminton rules starts with the Puna regulations, which were then revised several times in the late 19th century by various respected members of British badminton clubs. The Badminton Association of England was established in 1893, when they also published an official set of rules. By the turn of the century, badminton was played competitively across Britain in gentleman’s doubles, ladies doubles, mixed doubles, and singles.
It only took badminton three decades to spread from Britain and become popular on a global scale. In 1934 the International Badminton Federation was established by nine member states; England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, and New Zealand. Today, the name has been changed to the Badminton World Federation, and it has grown to an impressive 176 member nations. There are several large worldwide competitions and in 1992, badminton became an official sport of the Summer Olympics.
Badminton in the World Today
Today, badminton is played all over the world, both as a professional and recreational sport. In Europe, Denmark has long produced many of the top professional players, and globally the Danish stars are mostly rivalled by players from Asia. It is also a widespread backyard pass-time in both the USA and Europe. Its popularity, no doubt, comes down to that it requires a relatively small area to play, and that the lightness of the shuttlecocks means there is little risk of breaking windows unlike a football or tennis ball might. But despite its light rackets and shuttlecocks that are easily stolen by the wind, badminton is a high-intensity exercise.