Introduction: Sport in its Social Context

  • Richard Holt
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


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.


Sport Club Traditional Game Mass Press Popular Front Spectator Sport 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    J. C. Dixon, ‘Prussia, Politics and Physical Education’ in P. C. McIntosh (ed.), Landmarks in the History of Physical Education (London, 1971 ), p. 128;Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    H. Bunle, ‘L’Education physique et les sports en France’, Journal de la Société Statistique de Paris (1922) pp. 135, 138. There may be considerable errors in these figures but they serve to give a general indication of the scale of the phenomenon under discussion.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    R. Auget, Histoire et légende du cirque (Paris, 1974 ).Google Scholar
  4. 17.
    M. Bahonneau, La Gymnastique raisonnée à lusage des employés et des ouvriers (Angers, 1911 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Holt 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Holt
    • 1
  1. 1.University of StirlingUK

Personalised recommendations