1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fagging
FAGGING (from “fag,” meaning “weary”; of uncertain etymology), in English public schools, a system under which, generally with the full approval of the authorities, a junior boy performs certain duties for a senior. In detail this custom varies slightly in the different schools, but its purpose—the maintenance of discipline among the boys themselves—is the same. Dr Arnold of Rugby defined fagging as “the power given by the supreme authorities of the school to the Sixth Form, to be exercised by them over the lower boys, for the sake of securing a regular government among the boys themselves, and avoiding the evils of anarchy; in other words, of the lawless tyranny of brute force.” Fagging was a fully established system at Eton and Winchester in the 16th century, and is probably a good deal older. That the advantages of thus granting the boys a kind of autonomy have stood the test of time is obvious from the fact that in almost all the great public schools founded during the 19th century, fagging has been deliberately adopted by the authorities. The right to fag carries with it certain well-defined duties. The fag-master is the protector of his fags, and responsible for their happiness and good conduct. In cases of bullying or injustice their appeal is to him, not to the form or house master, and, except in the gravest cases, all such cases are dealt with by the fag-master on his own responsibility and without report to the master. Until recent years a fag’s duties included such humble tasks as blacking boots, brushing clothes, and cooking breakfasts, and there was no limit as to hours; almost all the fag’s spare time being so monopolized. This is now changed. Fagging is now restricted to such light tasks as running errands, bringing tea to the “master’s” study, and fagging at cricket or football. At Eton there is no cricket fagging, and at most schools it is made lighter by all the fags taking their turn in regular order for one hour, so that each boy has to “fag” but once in so many weeks. At Rugby there is “study-fagging”—two fags being assigned to each Sixth Form boy and made responsible for the sweeping out and tidying up of his study alternately each week,—and “night-fagging”—running errands for the Sixth between 8.30 and 9.30 every evening,—and each boy can choose whether he will be a study-fag or night-fag. The right to fag is usually restricted to the Sixth Form, but at Eton the privilege is also granted the Fifth, and at Marlborough and elsewhere the Eleven have a right to fag at cricket, whether in the Sixth or not.