Who invented badminton?

The sport of badminton takes its name from Badminton House, the family seat of the Duke of Beaufort, in Gloucestershire, South West England. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, badminton was first played in that locale circa 1873, but its origin can be traced back to antiquity.

Traditional folk games involving hitting a shuttlecock back and forth have been popular in Asia, Europe and the Americas for centuries, if not millenia. In England, for example, the game of battledore and shuttlecock, a.k.a. jeu de volant, is depicted in a Medieval engraving held by the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Initially a children’s pastime, the game involved taking turns to hit a rudimentary feather-trimmed shuttlecock with small rackets, known as battledores, without allowing it to fall to the ground.

The evolution of modern badminton took another step forward in the second half of the nineteenth century, when army officers stationed in the city of Poona, now Pune, in Western India during the days of the British Raj improved battledore and shuttlecock by introducing a net and a court and drew up the rules for a new game known, unsurprising, as ‘poona’. Returning officers subsequently re-imported the revised, competitive game to England, where it gained trained traction in various locations including, of course, Badminton House.

The original rules and regulations of badminton, as the game became known, were revised in 1887 and again in 1890 before being published by the newly-formed Badminton Association of England, now Badminton England, in 1893. Nowadays, badminton is the second most popular participation sport globally, behind only association football, or soccer, with an estimated 220 million players worldwide.

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