Invention of the game
Boules games have a very long history, dating back through the Middle Ages to ancient Rome, and before that to ancient Greece and Egypt.
In France in the second half of the 19th century a form of boules known as jeu provençal (or boule lyonnaise) was extremely popular. In this form of the game players rolled their boules or ran three steps before throwing a boule. Pétanque originally developed as an offshoot or variant of jeu provençal in 1910, in what is now called the Jules Lenoir Boulodrome in the town of La Ciotat near Marseilles. A former jeu provençal player named Jules Lenoir was afflicted by rheumatism so severe that he could no longer run before throwing a boule. In fact, he could barely stand. A good friend named Ernest Pitiot was a local café owner. In order to accommodate his friend Lenoir, Pitiot developed a variant form of the game in which the length of the pitch or field was reduced by roughly half, and a player, instead of running to throw a boule, stood, stationary, in a circle. They called the game pieds tanqués, "feet planted" (on the ground), a name that eventually evolved into the game's current name, pétanque.
The first pétanque tournament was organized by Ernest Pitiot, along with his brother Joseph Pitiot, in 1910 in La Ciotat. After that the game spread quickly and soon became the most popular form of boules in France.
Before the mid-1800s, European boules games were played with solid wooden balls, usually made from boxwood root, a very hard wood. The late 1800s saw the introduction of cheap mass-manufactured nails, and wooden boules gradually began to be covered with nails, producing boules cloutées ("nailed boules"). After World War I, cannonball manufacturing technology was adapted to allow the manufacture of hollow, all-metal boules. The first all-metal boule, la Boule Intégrale, was introduced in the mid-1920s by Paul Courtieu. The Intégrale was cast in a single piece from a bronze-aluminum alloy. Shortly thereafter Jean Blanc invented a process of manufacturing steel boules by stamping two steel blanks into hemispheres and then welding the two hemispheres together to create a boule. With this technological advance, hollow all-metal balls rapidly became the norm.
Global spread of the game
After the development of the all-metal boule, pétanque spread rapidly from Provence to the rest of France, then to the rest of Europe, and then to Francophone colonies and countries around the globe. Today, many countries have their own national governing bodies.
In France, the Fédération Française de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FFPJP) has more than 300,000 licensed members.
There are strong national federations in Germany, Spain, and England. Petanque is actively played in many nations with histories of French colonial influence, especially in Southeast Asia, including Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Pétanque was featured at the 2015 All-Africa Games, which were hosted by the Republic of Congo, a former French colony.
Petanque is not widely played in the Americas. There is a Canadian petanque federation based in (FPUSA) reports that about 30,000 play nationwide. As of December 1, 2015, FPUSA counted 2141 members in the US, in 52 affiliated clubs.
On the international level, the FIPJP). It was founded in 1958 in Marseille and has about 600,000 members in 52 countries as of 2002 .
National and international competitions
There are a number of important world championship tournaments.
The FIPJP world championships take place every two years. Men's championships are held in even-numbered years, while Women's and Youth championships are held in odd-numbered years.
Perhaps the best-known international championship is the Mondial la Marseillaise à Pétanque, which takes place every year in Marseille, France, with more than 10,000 participants and more than 150,000 spectators.
The largest annual tournament in the United States is the Petanque Amelia Island Open (formerly the Petanque America Open), held in each year in November at Amelia Island, Florida.
La British Open is a major Pétanque tournament held in the North of England, in the United Kingdom. So far, this attracts players from across the UK and Europe.
Pétanque is not currently an Olympic sport, although the Confédération Mondiale des Sports de Boules — which was created in 1985 by several international boules organizations specifically for this purpose — has been lobbying the Olympic committee since 1985 to make it part of the summer Olympics.