The game of badminton has a long history. One of its earliest incarnations was a game played in ancient China known as “Ti Jian Zi,” where players kicked a kind of shuttlecock back and forth to each other. The shuttlecock could not touch the ground, and players weren’t allowed to touch it with their hands.
A variation of this game found its way to Europe many years later and became known as “battledore and shuttlecock.” Each player has a paddle (called a battledore) used to hit the shuttlecock. There is no net, and competition isn’t the point of the game. The goal is simply to see how many times they can keep hitting the shuttlecock before it lands on the ground. By the 16th century, battledore and shuttlecock was a popular game with children and the upper class.
The modern game of badminton as we know it got its start in British India in the mid 19th century. Soldiers stationed in India began amusing themselves by playing their own version of battledore and shuttlecock. They added a net, changed a few rules, and called it Poona.
Retired British soldiers took this new game back home to England with them and started a craze. In 1873, the Duke of Beaufort hosted the game at the Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England. From then on, Poona became known as badminton. It wasn’t long before the Bath Badminton Club was formed, and by 1887 the club had updated the rules to better conform to British ideals. As the game gained popularity, other countries formed their own badminton clubs. America’s first badminton club was established in New York in 1878.
The official rules were finally published in 1893 by the Badminton Association of England, which closely resemble the modern rules badminton players follow today. This was also the year badminton was officially launched at the Dunbar house in Portsmouth, England. In 1899, the Badminton Association of England began the All England Open Badminton Championships, which is still played annually and remains one of the most prestigious badminton competitions in the world.
Badminton’s worldwide popularity surged in the 1930s. Even Hollywood stars like Bette Davis and Douglas Fairbanks were playing it. In 1934, the International Badminton Federation was formed. Today it is known as the Badminton World Federation.
Badminton still enjoys great popularity all around the world, especially in Asia, and has been part of the Summer Olympics since 1992.