What Are Badminton and Its History? A Tale of the Shuttle

Feature Image Badminton History

Badminton is a sport played with rackets and a shuttle (known also as shuttlecock, bird or birdie), where two or four opponents play in two teams and try to make the shuttle land inside the court of the opponent team or individual. What makes badminton different from all other rackets sports is the shuttle, as all other known racket sports use balls instead. Badminton history and origin are, unfortunately, not fully documented and, therefore, it is not totally clear how it started.

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Who first invented badminton?

Badminton was invented by the British in the middle 19th century as a variant of an earlier game known as the battledore and the shuttle. Battledore was the name given in the old times to the rackets. The exact origin remains a mystery, although the most accepted theory is that it was developed by expatriate officers in British India, where it is documented to have been very popular at that point in time.

Although the exact origins are not clear, what is clear is that the sport flourished in England. There, as we will see below, the first rules were created and the first tournament organized. Moreover, it was the headquarters of the Badminton World Federation for a long time. So, even though we are not entirely sure whether the sport originated in British India, what is clear is that the British were the ones to invent it and, more importantly, develop it.

When were the first set of rules written?

The first set of rules for badminton appear to be written in Pune, United Kingdom in 1883 and were the ones followed until 1887.

In that year, J. H. E. Hart of the Bath Badminton Club in the UK drew up revised regulations. In 1890, Hart and Bagnel Wild again revised the rules.

In 1893, the Badminton Association of England (BAE) published these rules, also officially launching the sport at a house called “Dunbar” in Portsmouth on the 13th of September.

Why is it called badminton?

As it happens with its origin, the reason behind the name is also not clearly documented. However, there is also here a theory that, due to its logic, seems very plausible.

According to this theory, badminton takes the name from Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England, house owned by the Dukes of Beaufort since the 17th century. According to the theory, badminton became very popular in that location during its inception, with badminton matches being organized there.

If both theories of origin and name are true, one can guess that the expatriate officers that invented badminton in British India then brought it back home to England, where they started playing during the aristocracy reunions. One can guess that the sport did not have a name by then or simply, due to the importance of the Badminton House in the introduction of the sport in England, it overtook the previous name and became the standard one.

When was the first badminton tournament played?

The Badminton Association of England, founded on September 13, 1893, organized the first badminton competition in 1899. The competition, called All England Open Badminton Championships, included gentlemen’s doubles, ladies’ doubles, and mixed doubles. Singles competitions were added the following year, in 1900.

The All England Open Badminton Championships is still one of the most important championships of the year, mostly due to its long history and its significance. Before the Badminton World Federation started organizing the World Badminton Championship, the All England was considered the unofficial world championship.

When was the Badminton World Federation created?

The Badminton World Federation was created in 1934 as International Badminton Federation. The International Badminton Federation was founded by nine members (Canada, Denmark, England, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales). Since then, the Badminton World Federation has grown from 9 to 176 members around the World.

On the 24th of September 2006, the International Badminton Federation decided to change its name to the current one, Badminton World Federation (or BWF). Also around those dates, on the 1st of October 2005, the head office was relocated from Cheltenham in the UK, where it was located since its founding, to Kuala Lumpur. This change is a clear example of the importance of all the Asian countries in the current history and development of the sport.

When was the first world badminton championship played?

The first world badminton championship, called BWF World Championship, was held in 1977, in Malmö, Sweden.

In it, Denmark dominated the singles category, conquering the two golds and one silver. They also won the mixed doubles category. Men’s doubles went to Indonesia, while women’s doubles went to Japan.

From that moment until now, however, China has emerged as the greatest power. At the time of this writing (you can check the most up to date table in this link), China is the most dominant nation, with a total of 182 medals (65 of them gold medals). Indonesia is the second nation with more medal with 74 medals (22 of them gold medals) and Denmark is the third nation with 61 medals (10 of them gold medals).

When was badminton added to the Olympics?

The history of badminton in the Olympics is rather short. It started as a demonstration event in the Summer Olympics of 1972, in Munich. The next time that badminton appeared in the Olympics was also as a demonstration event, in this case in the Summer Olympics of 1988, in Seoul.

The sport became an official Summer Olympic sport the following time, in the Summer Olympics of 1992, in Barcelona. It has, since then, become a part of the games, gaining a lot of attention in 2008, when the Summer Olympics were celebrated in Beijing.

Looking into the future – What is the outlook of the sport?

The prospects for badminton are rather optimistic. There are two main reasons for this. First, the two most populated countries (China and India) are also the countries where the sport is practiced the most. Second, these two countries are also becoming more developed and gaining more power in the World. With this in mind, one can only expect badminton to become more important in time, with China and India being able to spend more money on it as the country grows and thus helping to internationalize it.

Signs of these are already starting to appear. Prizes are climbing up year after year, which is a clear sign of the health of the sport. In addition to that, more countries, such as Spain with Carolina Marín, are joining the club and making badminton more known in their own lands.

Final words

And with this, we have arrived at the end of this article. In it, we have explained what is known for a fact and what is believed of the origin of badminton. We have followed that with an explanation of the origin of the rules. After that, we have described the most plausible theory for the name of badminton.

After all these theories and speculations, we have jumped onto the more grounded facts of the creation of the Badminton World Federation, the date and location of the first world championship and the addition of badminton to the Olympics, which has helped to widen its practice all over the world.

We have ended with a brief look into the future, where all signs indicate that badminton will continue to grow in importance in the world.

If you know of any other piece of history that we have missed or other interesting theory for the name or exact origin, please let us know in the comments below!

By MiquelM

I have been playing badminton since I was a kid, playing in both national and international tournaments at a semi-professional level. If you want to know a bit more about me, check my "About me" page.

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