In the Ancient World, all major ancient civilizations used rowing for transportation, commerce, and war. The beginning of rowing is clouded in history but the use of oars in the way they are used today can be traced back to ancient Egypt. Archaeologists have recovered a model of a rowing vessel in a tomb dating back to the 18-19th century BC. Ever since the earliest recorded references to rowing, the sporting element has been present. An Egyptian funerary inscription of 1430 BC records that the warrior Amenophis II was also renowned for his feats of oarsmanship. In the Aeneid, Virgil mentions rowing forming part of the funeral games arranged by Aeneas in honour of his father. In the 13th century, Venetian festivals called regata included boat races among others.
The first known "modern" rowing races began from competition among the professional watermen in the United Kingdom that provided ferry and taxi service on the River Thames in London. The oldest surviving such race, Doggett's Coat and Badge was first contested in 1715 and is still held annually from London Bridge to Chelsea. It is known that the Monarch Boat Club of Eton College and the Isis Club of Westminster School were both in existence in the 1790s. At the University of Oxford bumping races were first organised in 1815 when Brasenose College and Jesus College boat clubs had the first annual race. The Boat Race between Oxford University and Cambridge University first took place in 1829, and was the second intercollegiate sporting event.
During the 19th century rowing races were to become numerous and popular on many rivers throughout Great Britain, notably on the Tyne. Founded in 1818, Leander Club is the world's oldest public rowing club. The second oldest club which still exists is the Der Hamburger und Germania Ruder Club which was founded 1836 in Germany. Narragansett Boat Club was founded in 1838 exclusively for rowing, and is the oldest rowing club in the U.S. The Harvard–Yale Regatta is the oldest intercollegiate sporting event in the United States. The Schuylkill Navy is an association of amateur rowing clubs of Philadelphia. Founded in 1858, it is the oldest amateur athletic governing body in the United States.
FISA, the “Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron” in French (International Federation of Rowing Associations) was founded by representatives from France, Switzerland, Belgium, Adriatica (now a part of Italy) and Italy in Turin in 1892. It is the oldest international sports federation in the Olympic movement. FISA first organized a European Rowing Championships in 1893. An annual World Rowing Championships was introduced in 1962. Rowing has also been conducted at the Olympic Games since 1900 (cancelled at the first modern Games in 1896 due to bad weather). In 1954, the women's events were added to the European Rowing Championships, and in 1976 at the Summer Olympics in Montreal women were allowed to participate.