One of the first real studies of physical culture in England, Michael Anton Budd’s The
Sculpture Machine, is a wide ranging examination of health and fitness in early twentieth-century England. Primarily focused on Eugen Sandow but moving out into the popular world of physical culture in Engand, Budd examples the domestic and colonial implications of Britain’s fascination with health and well-being. In doing so, Budd stresses the importance of art, literature and conceptions of gender in the popularity of exercise systems comprising callisthenics, Swedish drill and of course, weightlifting.
For our money, Budd’s definition of physical culture as a late nineteenth and early twentieth-century concern with the ideological and commercial cultivation of the body is still the most apt.
For those interested in the birth of modern weight training in England or in Western
Europe more generally, Budd’s work makes for seminal reading.