Badminton has come a long way since its humble start in the late 19th century; as of April of 2022, the game we love has anywhere from 220 million to 229 million players. While people are divided on where the first shuttlecock was struck, I’m here to settle this argument once and for all!
Badminton started in Gloucestershire, England in the early 1860s; at least, the version we know today began then. It started as a game played in a leisurely fashion on a lawn with paddles (then called battledores), a shuttlecock, and sides. Badminton arrived on the scene as a souvenir from India, as British officers who’d been assigned there brought the game home to England. The exact area of Gloucestershire that witnessed the first demonstration of the game was Badminton, hence the name.
Following the game’s demonstration, the rest was history, as they say. In this article, I’ll peer further back into the whats and whos that have contributed to badminton’s origin and let you know where the game has caught on beyond British shores.
Who Invented Badminton?
Badminton was brought to England in a town where the Duke of Beaufort lived. Coincidentally, the game bears the name of the house and village in Gloucestershire where the game was first shown. The house of the game’s origin was the Badminton House, run by the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort. Because of the association, it’s easy to point to the Duke as the creator of the game; however, this isn’t quite accurate.
It’s hard to say who invented badminton. The reason for this is that badminton was a derivation of a much older game. British officers simply brought it to the Duke of Beaufort’s residence, where the English version of the game was played for the first time. According to the National Badminton Museum, the only addition to the game was the string, which appeared on a rainy day in 1863. It was 1.52 meters above the ground —the same net height required by the Badminton World Federation (BWF). Even based on the National Badminton Museum’s accounts, the inventor of the net, which formally distinguished badminton from the game it was derived from, isn’t clear.
In short, it might be a misnomer to say that badminton was invented. I think a better way to put it would be this way:
Badminton originated in Badminton, Gloucestershire in the residence of the Duke of Beaufort. Here, people played a version of a game brought by British military officers stationed in India. The string from which the net originated was the main addition to the game, which appeared in 1863.
What Game is Badminton Derived From?
As I’ve mentioned, badminton was derived from a game brought to England by British military officers stationed in India. But what game was badminton a derivation of?
Badminton was derived from Poona. Poona was a racket game played by children in India. The name of the game was a reference to the part of India where the British officers were stationed — Pune, India. In Poona, two players stood across each other with battledores, striking the shuttlecock alternately until someone missed. Unlike badminton, however, Poona did not have a net.
Poona wasn’t an official sport; it was more like a game played for fun rather than competition. British officers stationed in Pune, India passed the time with it, using any object they could find in the absence of a shuttlecock. The shuttlecock substitutes ranged from wool balls to rubber ones — anything that would bounce off of the broad head of a battledore.
Gaining appeal among British military officers, they brought it back to England as soon as they returned home. Needless to say, its introduction in the Badminton House spearheaded the game’s popularity amongst the upper-middle class and, years later, to the rest of the world.
What are the Old Names of Badminton?
Badminton, as we know and play it today, is the result of various derivations of the game throughout history. With each derivation, badminton — or, at least, some version of it — went by many names.
One of the earliest names of badminton was Battledore and Shuttlecock. According to the National Badminton Museum, this was the name given to the sport when it was introduced at the Duke of Beaufort’s residence. From its introduction, the game went by this name until it changed to “badminton” sometime in 1863. As mentioned earlier, however, the original version of the game was called Poona. Poona was a racket game played by children. Poona isn’t what the game went by in India. Rather, British army officers who enjoyed it coined the name in reference to the garrison town they stayed in.
The name “badminton” was a reference to two places: the town it first graced England in and the Duke of Beaufort’s residence, the Badminton House.
In Which Countries is Badminton Most Popular Now?
Today, badminton has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, thanks to the BWF. While badminton has a massive following globally, there are some countries in which it dominates other sports.
Badminton is popular in countries like China, Indonesia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Malaysia. It’s also growing in popularity in the United States. Of these countries, China has the largest number of badminton enthusiasts and players. In my other post about the number of badminton players in the world, I mentioned that China has at least 100 million badminton players, which explains the massive badminton talent pool coming out of the country.
While badminton is also big in Indonesia, Japan, and Denmark, none rival China’s presence in the sport. However, these three countries have made significant progress, which is largely owed to the players who have given them recognition in badminton.
The United Kingdom is also a badminton hub, being home to the oldest and one of the most prestigious badminton championships, the Yonex All-England Open Badminton Championships.
Malaysia is a badminton-loving country for several reasons. Besides being home to top-tier players like Lee Zii Jia and Peck Yin Wei, Malaysia is the home of the BWF. Since 2005, the headquarters of the BWF has been in the nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
From India, to England, to the World
Badminton had humble beginnings as a child’s game in India. Coming to England, it evolved into a leisurely game in the halls and lawns of Badminton House.
The introduction of badminton has led to the sport that has taken the world by storm today. All it needed was to start somewhere — just like every player who’s on the fence about picking up a racket.
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