Badminton: The History and Mechanics of a 2000-Year-Old Sport

Categories: Badminton

Having origins in both Asia and Europe, badminton has a surprisingly rich history. Badminton had an ancient counterpart called battledore and shuttlecock, which is said to have originated 2000 years ago. According to the USA Badminton website, battledore and shuttlecock was the act of “two people hitting a shuttlecock backwards and forwards with a simple bat as many times as they could without allowing it to hit the ground”. Essentially, a rudimentary version of badminton with less rules, no net, and no scorekeeping.

In 1600s Europe, battledore and shuttlecock was a leisure sport for the upper class. Modern badminton originated in mid-1800s British India. British military officers stationed there took the game of battledore and shuttlecock and added a net to it. Because it was popular in a town called Poona, the new sport was deemed “Poona”. At first, the upper class would hit wool balls over the net, but they would eventually switch over to a rudimentary design for the shuttlecock that we know today, returning to the 2000 year old roots of the sport.

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When retired military officers went back to Britain, they would take Poona with them. The game was introduced to the guests of the Duke of Beaufort. The name of the duke’s home, the Badminton House, would eventually become the new namesake of the sport. In England, badminton saw increasing attention as both a leisure sport and a competitive one. In 1877, the newly formed Bath Badminton Club created the first set of written rules. In 1893, The Badminton Federation of England was born.

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In 1899, the federation organized the All England Championships: one of the first large-scale badminton tournaments.

During the mid to late 1800s, badminton was a purely British sport. What would set the precedent for its spread to the Olympics would be the way in which it spread throughout Europe. In 1934, the International Badminton Federation was created with nine members: England, Ireland, Wales, Denmark, Scotand, Canada, Holland, France, and New Zealand. India joined in 1936. In 1948, the International Badminton Federation hosted the Thomas Cup, its first major tournament. It was world men’s team championship, and it would be the first of many. The IBF set the precedent for other world events being established such as the World Championships, Uber Cup, World Junior Cups, Sudirman Cup, and the World Grand Prix Finals. The Uber Cup and the Sudirman Cup would be among the first badminton world events to include women, making competitive badminton an all-inclusive sport. Badminton saw its introduction to the Olympics in 1972 as a demonstration sport. It would not be until 1992 that badminton would actually be included in the Olympics program, with men’s and women’s singles and doubles. Badminton is still a sport in the Olympics to this day, and it will be played at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

Most sports that have lasted for centuries have also significantly evolved from their origins. Badminton is no different. The history of the shuttlecock is an example of this. As previously mentioned, battledore and shuttlecock was played with a shuttlecock, and poona was originally played with woolen balls. It was only after a while that those playing poona would switch to the shuttlecock. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the early shuttlecock was “a small cork hemisphere with 16 goose feathers attached and weighing about 0.17 ounces”. Nowadays, we have no reason to call modern, synthetic shuttlecocks “birdies”. We call them that because their early designs actually involved feathers. Badminton also saw a change in mechanics as it switched to a more competitive scene. As previously mentioned, in battledore and shuttlecock, people would use bats to keep a birdie in the air. This sport obviously needed changes to become more fun, exciting, and physically demanding on the competitive level. The badminton net first showed up during the poona days, and with the net came a system in which the server was the only one that could score points. In 2006, the Badminton World Federation changed this with a “rally scoring” system, allowing both sides to score points at any time. The intent in doing this was most likely to match badminton with other rallying counterparts such as tennis and volleyball. Competitive badminton also has many other technical regulations to keep it fair and competitive. It is normally played indoors as not to let winds affect the movement of the shuttlecock. Courts are usually 44 feet long and 17(for singles) or 20(for doubles) feet wide. Nets are 5 feet high, lie at the center of the court, and stretch across the court’s width. To win a game, a player must have at least 21 points and a two point lead. If a two point lead isn’t reached, then the victory goes to whoever reaches 30 points first. Games are usually best-of-three. Again, these rules are similar to other rallying sports(mostly to volleyball).

Although badminton had its roots in Europe, some of the strongest badminton players come from Asian countries. According to the badminton page in the Olympic website, “between 1992 and 2008, Asian countries won 69 out of the 76 medals available in Olympic competition”. With a rich history and a definite future, it will be interesting to see how the sport of badminton progresses. For now, however, it will be exciting to see who takes home the gold at Tokyo in 2020.

Works Cited

  • “Badminton Equipment and History - Olympic Sport History.” International Olympic Committee, 15 May 2018,
  • “Brief History of Badminton.” Team USA, USA Badminton,
  • The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Badminton.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 May 2019,
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
Cite this page

Badminton: The History and Mechanics of a 2000-Year-Old Sport. (2024, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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