Fran Bigman at Literary Review:
Until I read Howard Means’s Splash! and Bonnie Tsui’s Why We Swim, my main encounter with the history of the sport had been a Victorian-inspired swimming gala organised by members of my local team at north London’s Parliament Hill Lido. We competed in novelty races that predated the streamlining of swimming into a competitive sport, swimming upright holding umbrellas in one race, wearing blindfolds in another. We jumped into the pool in vintage dresses to see what it was like to swim hampered by heavy fabrics.
I learned much from both books. The first-known depictions of swimming are pictographs made eight thousand years ago on the walls of the so-called Cave of the Swimmers in the middle of the Sahara, where there were once deep-water lakes. The ancient Greeks often triumphed in battle due to their swimming prowess.