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We know that quidditch is at least decades old, but how long ago did witches and wizards start playing the sport? Out of universe, I would imagine hundreds of years at least as the image of witches on brooms is a very old one. I'm curious, though, what the earliest references to quidditch are in the books or movies.

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    I've downvoted for lack of research effort – Valorum Sep 11 '17 at 22:36
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    @Valorum I'm sorry? I could have spent some time combing through the wiki trying to decide what was invented by a fan, or what was actually canonical, but I thought that I would leave that to someone more inclined to do so. – BlackThorn Sep 11 '17 at 23:16
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    I'm at a loss to understand how this is a bad question. – The Dark Lord Sep 11 '17 at 23:38
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    2 minutes depends on the query, of course. "Quidditch first game" will obviously be filled with results about Harry's first game, but "quidditch history"? The first non-card result for that is harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Quidditch, with this blurb: "The history of the Snitch is perhaps the most interesting of all the Quidditch balls, and its introduction came as the direct result of a game played in 1269 in Kent.", giving a good indication of the age (and of course, the wikia page has much of the information from the answer below). – muru Sep 12 '17 at 7:36
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    @TBear - No, but that's not the point of SE. The point isn't, "Well, I don't remember off the top of my head, better ask SE!". Stack Exchange is for questions that have been researched without success, or questions with answers that are hard to quantify. Google is for off the cuff facts. When I was reading Harry Potter 4, and the Daily Prophet calls Mr. Weasley "Arnold", I didn't go to SE to ask what his first name really was, I just Googled it, (well, I would have had it not been in the next chapter). Maybe I'm misinterpreting, but that's always been my understanding. I don't mean to be rude. – EvSunWoodard Sep 12 '17 at 16:27
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Jason Baker's answer does a good job of answering from Rowling's extended writings, but the OP has stated a preference for information found in the main series itself.

The earliest specific Quidditch reference in the main series is to the World Cup of 1473, but Quidditch itself would have to be older than that.

Harry learned that there were seven hundred ways of committing a Quidditch foul and that all of them had happened during a World Cup match in 1473; that Seekers were usually the smallest and fastest players, and that most serious Quidditch accidents seemed to happen to them; that although people rarely died playing Quidditch, referees had been known to vanish and turn up months later in the Sahara Desert.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Chapter 11

Note that if all 700 Quidditch fouls had already been codified, it would seem that Quidditch itself was much older.

There is also a possibly older reference in Goblet of Fire concerning the number of the world cup.

“Ladies and gentlemen . . . welcome! Welcome to the final of the four hundred and twenty-second Quidditch World Cup!”
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Chapter 8

It seems to be implied that the World Cups were held every four years at the time that the books take place (making the first one way back in 310), but it in order for their to have been a tournament in 1473 this must have not always been the case. Or it's just Rowling maths again.

  • I thought there might be something like this sprinkled in there. Nice job finding it! – BlackThorn Sep 12 '17 at 20:20
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    @TBear - Note that as far as extended canon (QttA/Pottermore) goes, Rowling has said that the 1473 tournament was the first Quidditch World Cup, and that one has been held every four years since, (with the exception of 1877 being rescheduled to 1878). No explanation has been offered for the fact that that only gives room for 130 tournaments. – ibid Sep 12 '17 at 20:32
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There's a whole (out-of-universe, and also in-universe) book on this subject: Quidditch Through the Ages.

According to this book, the first game of what might be recognized as quidditch was played in the 11th century; some entries in a diary of the period describe some recognizable elements:

Tuesday. Hot. That lot from across the marsh have been at it again. Playing a stupid game on their broomsticks. A big leather ball landed in my cabbages. I hexed the man who came for it. I'd like to see him fly with his knees on back to front, the great hairy hog.

Tuesday. Wet. Was out on the marsh picking nettles. Broomstick idiots playing again. Watched for a bit from behind a rock. They've got a new ball. Throwing it to each other and trying to stick it in trees at either end of the marsh. Pointless rubbish.

Tuesday. Windy. Gwenog came for nettle tea, then invited me out for a treat. Ended up watching those numbskulls playing their game on the marsh. That big Scottish warlock from up the hill was there. Now they've got two big, heavy rocks flying around trying to knock them all off their brooms. Unfortunately didn't happen while I was watching. Gwenog told me she often played herself. Went home in disgust.

Quidditch Through the Ages Chapter 3: "The Game from Queerditch Marsh"

The last recognizable element, the Golden Snitch (originally a live animal, called a Snidget), was originally part of a different sport of the same period:

From the early 1100s, Snidget-hunting had been popular among many witches and wizards.

[...]

The diminutive size of the Snidget, coupled with its remarkable agility in the air and talent at avoiding predators, merely added to the prestige of wizards who caught them. A twelfth-century tapestry preserved in the Museum of Quidditch shows a group setting out to catch a Snidget. In the first portion of the tapestry, some hunters carry nets, others use wands, and still others attempt to catch the Snidget with their bare hands.

Quidditch Through the Ages Chapter 4: "The Arrival of the Golden Snitch"

The book goes on to describe how the two sports came together:

Snidget-hunting finally crossed paths with Quidditch in 1269 at a game attended by the Chief of the Wizards' Council himself, Barberus Bragge. We know this because of the eyewitness account sent by Madam Modesty Rabnott of Kent to her sister Prudence in Aberdeen (this letter is also on display in the Museum of Quidditch). According to Madam Rabnott, Bragge brought a caged Snidget to the match and told the assembled players that he would award one hundred and fifty Galleons to the player who caught it during the course of the game.

Quidditch Through the Ages Chapter 4: "The Arrival of the Golden Snitch"

Although the sport would continue to be refined over the centuries (and a full recounting of its history is far too long for this format), this is the earliest mention of it known in-universe.

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    Huh, I had forgotten this book even existed. +1, I guess. It is written by JKR, though I was hoping to hear something from the main series. – BlackThorn Sep 11 '17 at 23:27
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    @TBear That sort of history is hard to work into a narrative; some writers would just go off on a tangent, but Rowling....well I was going to say that Rowling has too much artistic integrity, but I couldn't do it with a straight face – Jason Baker Sep 12 '17 at 0:15
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    She put it well. I can just imagine a bunch of block-heads getting tired of throwing a ball around and deciding "What if we had semi-sentient cannon balls trying to kill us during this game, that would make it so much more awesome" – Sidney Sep 12 '17 at 14:49
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    @TBear I don't think you're going to find a better answer for your question than the contents of this book. It's absolutely canon. The main series never goes into much Quidditch history at all. – ell Sep 12 '17 at 15:44
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    @8bittree I meant "living", and I'll change it to avoid confusion, but yes; despite what science fiction would have you believe, snidgets are almost certainly sentient by any real-world definition – Jason Baker Sep 12 '17 at 18:35

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