Introduction: Sport in its Social Context
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As organised sport is now so important an element of modern popular culture, it is perhaps surprising that historians have paid such scant attention to its origins and development. ‘Grandfather clocks, balloons and potatoes have benefited from the historical studies that sports and games still lack’, comments the author of one of the few pieces of serious historical research on the rise of sport. Other writers on the subject confirm the justification of this remark. An exploratory French work on the sociology of sport published in 1964 complained of the almost complete absence of books dealing with sport from a social or historical perspective. Indeed, until recently the study of leisure as a whole has been virtually ignored by historians. Even in Britain, where so many sports originated, ‘the historical coverage of sport has failed to keep up with its increase in social importance in the past century’. The histories of sport which have been written so far are not the work of historians but of popular journalists or important officials in the world of sport itself. In general, they take the form of commentaries on record-breaking performances interspersed with anecdotes evoking the great days of a particular club or a famous sportsman. From such works we learn little of direct relevance to the understanding of sport as a social phenomenon.
KeywordsSport Club Traditional Game Mass Press Popular Front Spectator Sport
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