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Englishmen Forbidden to Play Ball; Archery Much Preferred

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Edward III wrote to the Sheriff of Kent, and evidently sheriffs throughout England. Noting a relative neglect of the useful art of archery, the King said he was thereby, on festival days, "forbidding, all and single, on our orders, to toy in any way with these games of throwing stones, wood, or iron, playing handball, football, "stickball," or hockey, . . . which are worthless, under pain of imprisonment." The translator uses "stickball" as a translation of the Latin "pila cacularis," and suggests that it might have been an early form of cricket. We might also ask whether it was referring to early stoolball.

A. R. Myers, English Historical Documents (Routledge, 1996), page 1203. [Viewed online 10/16/08]. Provided in email from John Thorn, 2/27/2008. Myers' citation is "Rymer, Foedera, III, ii, from Close Roll, 37 Edward III [Latin]."

Caveat: The content of this entry resembles that of #1365.1 below, and both refer to a restriction imposed by Edward III. However that entry, stemming from Strutt, refers to "club-ball" instead of "stick-ball," and identifies the Latin as "pilam bacculoream," not "pila cacularis." It is possible that both refer to the same source. Strutt’s text reads: “The recreations prohibited by proclamation in the reign of Edward III., exclusive of the games of chance, are thus specified; throwing of stones, wood, or iron….” The accompanying footnote reads: “Pilam manualtm, ptdinam, el bacculoream, et ad cambucam, etc.” Also: the letter to Kent is elsewhere dated 1365, which could be consistent with Edward III's 37th year under the crown, but Myers uses 1363.

Note: this entry replaced the former entry #1365.1: "In 1365 the sheriffs had to forbid able-bodied men playing ball games as, instead, they were to practice archery on Sundays and holidays." Source: Hassall, W. O., [compiler], "How They Lived: An Anthology of Original Accounts Written Before 1485" [Blackwell, Oxford University Press, 1962], page 285. Submitted by John Thorn, 10/12/2004.

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