Sport and the making of Britain

By Derek Birley

Sport and the making of Britain

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-3759-7
  • Pages: 358
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £17.99
  • Published Date: October 1993
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Popular culture, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Sociology: Sport & Leisure, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, SPORTS & RECREATION / Sociology of Sports, Politics & government, Popular culture, History


The British love of sport is legendary. In this lively and stimulating book Derek Birley looks at the part it played in shaping British society.

The book traces the development of sporting conventions from medieval chivalry to modern notions of sportsmanship and fair play. Particular sports from hunting and the tournament to ball-games and athletics are shown against the social background of the emerging nation. The first laws of favourite pastimes such as horse-racing, cricket and boxing were devised by the privileged for gambling purposes, but were enthusiastically followed by the lower orders for pleasure and profit.

Amongst the topics explored are the changing fortunes and fashions in field sports, 'gentlemen and players' in cricket, the public school games cult, purity in amateur rowing, the urban middle-class discovery of lawn tennis and golf, and the 'north-south divide' in football. These social issues are cross-threads in the theme of sport's influence on national identity, patriotism and imperialism in the making of Britain.

Remarkable in its scope and in its linking of sport to the changing social political scene, this is a splendidly readable history.

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