Passionate Manhood

Introduced into historical analyses of American men and masculinities by E. Anthony Rotundo in 1993, the concept of “passionate manhood” refers to four connected articulations of middle-class manliness: (1) the body, (2) forms of “primitive” masculinity, (3) martial and military virtues, and (4) competition in sports and business. These articulations of manliness emerged after 1850 and became increasingly influential in the 1880s and 1890s.

This shift toward a passionate manhood represented a decisive departure from earlier ideals of manliness. During the late eighteenth century, the American Revolution had generated an ideal of manhood emphasizing moral, social, and political qualities, such as independence, autonomy, virtue, and distrust of hierarchies and inherited status, that were considered conducive to responsible democratic citizenship and public order. After 1850, urbanization, industrialization, ...

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