Children’s bodies and physical education in Italian elementary schools during the first half of the twentieth century

Paolo Alfieri*

*Autore corrispondente per questo lavoro

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroChapter


This essay examines developments in physical education teaching in Italian elementary schools across the first half of the twentieth century. Its research aim – identifying the views of the body that underpinned physical education in this historical context – is pursued by analysing government-defined curricula and a selection of the leading teacher’s manuals from the period. Such documentary material, which is framed by broader changes in the political-educational scene and in pedagogical discourse, sheds light on both the aims of physical education and, primarily, the methodological approaches informing how it was taught. The paper does not abandon traditional perspectives within educational historiography, but – at the same time – explores one of the discipline’s more recent interests, which concerns the dual – material and metaphorical – meaning attributed to the body. Thus, the preliminary outcomes summed up here may offer a stimulating point of departure for those interested in teasing out the relative weight ascribed, in the teaching of physical education, to the body’s objective dimension, to be disciplined from a functional perspective, and its subjective dimension, representing its expressive potential.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteEducation and the Body in Europe (1900-1950). Movements, public health, pedagogical rules and cultural ideas
EditorA. Németh, T. Kasper S. Polenghi
Numero di pagine14
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2021


  • History of Schooling
  • Italy
  • Physical Education
  • Primary School
  • XX century


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