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History of Sport

The history of sport involves the study of historical forces, institutions, and personalities that have shaped sport and physical activity. The focus ranges from sport in early civilizations of antiquity including Greece and Rome to the amateur ideal and Olympism of the twentieth century; and from the influence of religious forces on the mind-body dichotomy to developments in college athletics today.

Philosophy of Sport

In the philosophy of sport, students examine the nature and values of human movement utilizing the nonempirical methods of philosophers. Areas of emphasis include:

  • the ethics of sport
  • mind-body holism and its implications for professional practice
  • the significance of tacit knowledge
  • comparisons of sport with art
  • the unique values of games and play

Some of the faculty have been active in the founding and early years of their respective professional organizations: the North American Society for Sport History and the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (originally the Philosophic Society for the Study of Sport).


The Penn State program in the History and Philosophy of Sport offers students a unique opportunity to focus on either history or philosophy while gaining breadth through the other area. Excellent working relationships with the history and philosophy departments and extensive library collections further strengthen this program. The Penn State library has a fine collection of periodicals and books, and a significant collection of newspapers on microfilm. The microfilm collection is particularly strong in the Olympics, women's sports and college athletics. The library also contains a number of rare books in the area of sport and physical education philosophy and in sport history.

Program of Study

In the past decades, students in history and philosophy have had the opportunity to work with professors on both historical and philosophical grants, with topics ranging from the history of television and big-time college football to ethics in sport.

The Penn State program places strong emphasis on research and writing for the students who have a wide diversity of academic and cultural backgrounds both in America and internationally. Students are recruited from such academic areas as history, literature, philosophy, American studies, classics, geography, sociology, political science, as well as the more traditional fields of physical education and kinesiology.


Learn more about the faculty members who mentor History and Philosophy of Sport graduate students at Penn State: