Squash developed from at least five other sports involving racquets, gloves, and balls having roots in the early 1500s in France. It is stated that “Squash, with its element of hitting balls against walls, was for entertainment. For example, boys and girls slapped balls in narrow alleys and streets”. Religious institutions in France, such as monasteries, developed a similar game. Monks used gloves that were webbed to hit balls against a fishing net strung across the middle of the courtyards of the monasteries. This developed the early “racquets” used in tennis and squash. Then in late fifteenth century, tennis was developed and spread to other European nations. The next major development of squash took place in England where the game of "racquets" was developed in Fleet Prison, a debtor’s prison. Similar to tennis, it involved racquets and balls, but instead of hitting over a net as in tennis, players hit a non-squeezable ball against walls. A variation of rackets that also led to the formation of squash was called fives, similar to handball. Fives was essentially the game of racquets, without racquets. (The ball was hit with the hand.) It is played against a wall or walls.
These games gained popularity in schools, and squash itself was developed in a school, Harrow School in England. The first courts built at this school were rather dangerous because they were near water pipes, buttresses, chimneys, and ledges. The school soon built four outside courts. Natural rubber was material of choice for the ball. Students modified their racquets to have a smaller reach to play in these cramped conditions.
The racquets have changed in much the same way as those used in tennis. Squash rackets used to be made out of laminated timber. In the 1980s, construction shifted to lighter, carbon-based materials (such as graphite) with small additions of such components as Kevlar, boron and titanium. Natural "gut" strings were replaced with synthetic strings.
In the 1900s the game increased in popularity with various schools, clubs and even private citizens building squash courts, but with no set dimensions. The first squash court in North America appeared at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire in 1884. In 1904 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the earliest national association of squash in the world was formed as the United States Squash Racquets Association, (USSRA), now known as US-Squash. In April 1907 the Tennis, Rackets & Fives Association set up a sub committee to set standards for squash. Then the sport soon formed, combining the three sports together called “Squash”. It was not until 1923 that the Royal Automobile Club hosted a meeting to further discuss the rules and regulations and another five years elapsed before the Squash Rackets Association was formed to set standards for squash in Great Britain.
The sport spread to America and Canada, and eventually around the globe. Players such as F.D. Amr Bey of Egypt dominated the courts in the 1930s, Geoff Hunt of Australia dominated the game during the 1960s and 1970s winning a record eight British Opens at the time and during the 1980s and 1990s Jahangir Khan of Pakistan won the British Open a record of ten times and Jansher Khan of Pakistan won the World Open a record of eight times.No list of squash champions is complete without referencing the legendary Hashim Khan, winner of 7 British Open championships, and his son, Sharif Khan, winner of 12 North American Open titles. Hashim is considered one of the best athletes of all times and is the patriarch of a sports dynasty, consisting of himself, his brother, Azam, nephews Mohibullah and Gul, sons Sharif, Gulmast, Aziz, Liaquat Ali, and Salim Khan - all of whom are squash champions in their own right. Jansher Khan, although sharing the same last name, is not considered part of the "Khan Dynasty" of squash as he is not related to Hashim Khan.