Badminton was first played in ancient Greece and Egypt, when players hit an early version of the shuttlecock, made of bird’s feathers, with racquets. It is thought to have been developed from a game called ‘battledore and shuttlecock’, a favourite among children.

A version of the game reached India in the 1700s, where it was called ‘poona’. The British army brought this game to Britain, after being stationed in India in the nineteenth century. It became known as badminton after a party hosted by the Duke of Beaufort in 1873, at his Gloucestershire abode, Badminton.

Badminton in Britain

After being introduced to Britain, badminton became popular among elite circles. The Bath Badminton Club formed and drew up a list of rules which clarified and simplified the rules of the Indian game, which had been followed since its introduction to Britain. The new rules were drawn up in 1887. In 1895, the Bath Badminton Club, which was the first such organisation in Britain, was superseded by the Badminton Association of England. The Association again reviewed and standardised the regulations, and has governed the rules ever since.

The popularity of the sport in Britain has continued to increase since its introduction. There were about 300 badminton clubs in Britain in 1920. This grew to over 9,000 shortly after World War II.

World domination

The sport continued to spread throughout the world and, in 1934, the International Badminton Federation (IBF) was founded by nine member countries – England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand. In 1981, the IBF became badminton’s international governing body. The International Badminton Federation was renamed the Badminton World Federation in 2006.

Competition history

In 1899, a men’s tournament was arranged in England – the first of its kind. The following year, a woman’s tournament was arranged. Both of these competitions were unofficial – official all-England matches did not begin until 1904.

The IBF held the first international badminton competition after World War II, during the 1948-9 season. The Thomas Cup, named after the federation’s president, Sir George Thomas, was solely a competition for male players. It was not until the 1956-57 season that the ladies’ tournament, the Uber Cup, was introduced.

There are now numerous international competitions, and badminton was played in the Olympic Games for the first time in 1992, when Barcelona was the host city.