Any time there is serious debate in a dog breeds history I follow the middle ground. I believe that either extreme is not going to be true. Bull dogs were used for bull baiting and were in the mid range size of about 65 lbs. Terriers that were in the ratting pits were much smaller, scrappier and quicker. For the common working man who was not involved in bull baiting it was not practical to own a dog that large. Bulldogs and Terriers were crossed to create a dog between about 20-35 lbs. People involved with fighting and baiting sports were concerned about how their dogs performed in the pit and the faster more agile dogs were better at it. I think that thinking other wise is naive. "Dog men" were not going to let people know what went into their dogs and breeding programs. I put it under the category of where there is smoke there is fire.
With much respect I hardly see how falling on the side of fighting in falling in the middle ground. To fall in the middle ground would be to say some were bred for fighting, which is different than the whole breed itself being bred for the purpose of fighting.
As for PitBull411 however much of the information has been taken out of context from their references, the references provided have provided a skewed history or the references provided are from more recent times written by writers with little to no experience in the breed in order to sell a book or promote an agenda.
One of the first ways you can see if someone knows what they are talking about from true research on historical documentation is how they spell the name. If some one spells it as pit bull or in current times says Pit Bull type this either shows their ignorance on the breed or their biased nature in denying its heritage as one of the oldest recognized pure bred breeds in existence. There is no such thing as a Pit Bull type. It is either a Pit Bull (American Pit Bull Terrier) or not a Pit Bull. If it is mixed then it is a mix/mutt and a reference should not be made to the Pit Bull part of the mix no more than what ever it is mixed with. No one would say a Chow type or a Dalmation type. This failure to properly classify a dog as either pure or a mix breed is one of the very things that skews bite statistics and gives the true Pit Bull its undeserved reputation and thus supports politicians pushing for BSL. The root of this lies with the AKC and their failure to make proper references to proper registries when politicians call and ask them about the Pit Bull breed. Instead of making the proper reference to the UKC, ADBA, APBR or other registry that registers the breed as pure they simply deny it is a recognized breed. While this is true as far as their registry is concerned it is disingenuous as they know for a fact it is recognized as such by others. They also fail to mention that their very own Am Staff was built on 100% Pit Bull stock and is one in the same. This failure is intentional I believe as a means of keeping the Am Staff off of BSL lists.
Please do not mistake when I use the term ignorance as I am not trying to be negative or belittle anyone I am using it in the strict sense of the word in meaning not educated on a topic. We are all ignorant to different degrees on different topics.
While the sources you list date back to the mid 90's my primary source Louis Colby is now 90 years old and he was born into the breed as his father was a co-founder of the ADBA. Order his book and read the dedication "This book is dedicated to my father, John P. Colby (Jan 1875 - Jan 1941) whose name has been synonymous with the American Pit Bull Terrier for over 100 years." My other primary source is Richard Stratton a well known historian on the breed.
Here are some quotes from Colby's book to help understand the breed and its true history better.
P. 38 "Dogs were expected to take care of themselves. If it was jumped by another dog in the street, it was expected to "lick it." A dog however, was not expected to be a bully-starting trouble in the street for no reason."
p.42 "Many modern dog fighters tend to be impressed with "barnstormers," or dogs that are hyper and dog aggressive, not realizing that many of the gamest dogs that ever lived were quite comfortable with other dogs."
p.52 "To the Colby family the much-discussed term "gameness" means unyielding and determined. Louis likes the word unyielding the best, because gameness can manifest itself in many different ways." - Throughout the book he refers to these in terms of hunting, guarding, weight pulling, etc.
p.56 "My guess is, if you were to take anybody's strain, ours included, probably out of every 100 dogs there wouldn't be more than five or ten who were completely dead game."
p.58 In reference to John Colby's dog Whiskey. "He wouldn't bother a cat or a dog, minded his own business and was very controllable."
p.77 "In the late 1980's, due to several highly publicized incidents involving careless breeders and owners, the very name of the Pit Bull became synonymous with aggression, violent behavior, and untrustworthiness. How different from the image (p.78) of the breed just a few decades before. Where once the Pit Bull had been advertised and sold as a "pal for children" (and in England as the "nursemaid dog")."
p.94 "In the yard of John P. Colby they (AKC) found Colby's Primo, a dog they felt represented a sound, athletic dog. Primo was measured and observed by this committee, and the AKC standard (for the Am Staff) was based in part on this dog."
p.95 "Some people are confused over the relationship between the modern-day American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier. The letter from the Staffordshire Terrier Club of America (still in existence) to Louis Colby shows clearly that the two breeds are one. At the bottom of the page the words "formerly known as the American (Pit) Bullterrier" shows that only the (p.96) name was changed when the dogs were allowed AKC registration.
There are many other quotes I could pull as well but have limited these to try to keep the post as short as possible.
I have discussed the Pit Bull with Colby directly and he is a very congenial man. I would provide his phone number to you but he may not want this given (due his aging health) to be posted on a board for many others to see. For any interested however and want a true history on the breed order his book directly from his site and he will send you a signed copy. With this if you write a message with your request he will likely provide a piece of letterhead that will provide the number to you so you can contact him, his son Bruce or his daughter who now handles most of the business due to his age.