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The Future for Sport and Leisure History Mike Huggins

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Strengths of sport history which should maximized and retained

Here are what the group session thought the strengths were prioritized in rank order. You will note that several tie for third place, so we needed time for more discussion at the end of the day than we had, in order to dig a little further down.

  1. Leisure is increasingly central to people's lives as is sport, alongside changing demographics, and generational attitudes, so well worth studying
  2. Open to inter-disciplinary work
  3. Critical mass of historians @ Crewe, DMU etc.
  4. Sport and leisure history is fun and interesting to do. Sport science expanding. Helps students challenge perceived ideas, myths etc.
  5. Sport a fully fledged sub-discipline in terms of literature, journals, subject associations, methodologies and debates. Leisure less so.
  6. Good diversity of approaches
  7. Wide variety of sources including imagery and representations
  8. publication pace still rapid.
  9. Good studies are fully contextualised.
  10. Helps engage with broader issues.

Weaknesses of sport history which should minimized or converted into opportunities

Placed in rank order

  1. A feeling of intellectual isolation dominated the responses. Leisure history is better integrated into the mainstream than sport, but both insufficiently integrated into mainstream journals. Specialist: sport, tourism, cinema etc.
  2. Sport history still sometimes dismissed as 'fans with typewriters', as not sufficiently relevant to the present day. This is linked to low external perceptions, especially within sports departments where it occupies an ambiguous position, and sometimes naively seen by sports science academics as lighthearted entertainment rather than a subject with rigour. There are tensions between the subject's origins in sports studies and PE, history and leisure industries, sociology/anthropology, and therefore in backgrounds of academics and their fit with departments above. Leisure being displaced in universities.
  3. There is insufficient diversity within the sub-field. Though leisure history attracts a better gender balance, sport history is still very male-centred and in the UK has not recruited minorities well.
  4. Several themes all had similar levels of response
    • Often over-tied to the status quo and traditional approaches. No radically different forms of sports history are currently emerging.
    • Academics still may need more training. Marketing and impact not yet thought about sufficiently
    • Sport history is not a subfield which attracts significant funding, unlike sports science, for example, so getting funding is extremely difficult unless you are with a leading university. And this damages REF standing too.
  5. Less emphasis was placed on these though all are still important.
    • International differences in terms of patterns of historical writing
    • Library books are expensive and necessary but often in short supply.
    • Coverage - over-strong focus on modern (and classical?) period in leisure and sport.
    • Insufficient 'grand theory', or transnational/cross-cultural work. Oral history under-used.
    • Difficult to get funding for projects with indications funding councils do not look favourably on sport/leisure topics and favour mainstream topics. History REF less supportive than sport REF
    • Impact of work often very difficult to quantify.
    • Sports studies students are often more interested in the present and the practical. History's reading demands are challenging.
    • Declining print runs of historical monographs and small historical journals, with limited circulations.

Opportunities for sport history which should exploited and maximized

Placed in rank order

  1. Leisure and sport history can be linked to heritage, museums, sites, community history, partnerships, outreach and commemoration. Almost all participants mentioned heritage and community history in some form. The move to heritage can drive the discipline forward. Perhaps BSSH should become the Society for Sport and Heritage History. Heritage is a main forum where the public engage with the past via media, museums, communities etc. Outreach ensures work has a meaning, audience, value and a future.
  2. Ever-growing amounts of on-line archival material which some universities and some county libraries allow to be accessed free, though it is less helpful for research into minorities or marginalized groups
  3. More outreach to amateur, family, local and sport club history. As Martin Polley pointed out, local sport projects are a great way of interrogating sport history and developing original research
  4. Several emphasized that that sport history is just as significant and important as military history, parliamentary history or any other subfield of historical research. It could become a significant part of the new social and cultural studies, fusing cultural and structural or perhaps link to business history. It could link more closely to leisure history and there is a possible need for a dedicated Leisure History journal where all aspects of British leisure (sport, art, cinema &c) were covered.
  5. Subject can challenge students to think critically within otherwise narrowly focussed 'professional' courses.
  6. Sport history in universities could submit to sport, not history, in next REF

  7. Also touched on but not emphasised were some other points

      • Scholars and students still very inventive about ways to convey subject's significance.
      • Big demand for books about leisure and sport history, but often self-satisfied 'nostalgia-fests.'
      • Presenting papers at mainstream, non-leisure history conferences, and networking more with the mainstream

    Threats to sport history, troublesome elements which we should be aware of and seek to tackle

    Placed in rank order

    • There was substantial concern about the potential move to open-access journals, with writers of research papers paying very substantial amounts to publish, an idea invented by Russell Group universities, whose research grants will cover the costs and also help their impact. It will be very problematical for leisure/sport articles written by those outside that circle, or those who private individuals who want to share their research.
    • REF does not reward inter-disciplinary work and offers increasing challenges, especially in terms of creating impact. Growing emphasis on metrics like numbers of citations is not helpful to subjects like history where references go up slowly over a longer time frame.
    • Economic and political pressures to encourage more 'vocational' and supposedly 'relevant' university courses, and increased pressure from line managers for more teaching, admin and other work at the expense of research.
    • Costs of digital access rising.
    • Fewer jobs: recruitment to study of sociology of leisure and sport, history, sports studies and leisure studies departments, and departmental size all recently in some decline
    • Leisure increasingly seen as entertainment, not something to critique

Sports history: where we are at; where we might go Dilwyn Porter

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As sports historians, I think we have to acknowledge that it is possible to arrive at our destination via a number of different routes. My background is in History and, though I'm now comfortable enough with the label 'sports historian' as a shorthand description of what I do, I tend to think of myself primarily as a 'historian', or maybe as a 'historian of sport'. In other words it was history that led me to sport, rather than sport that led me to history. I'm often told that there is a lingering prejudice against 'sports history' amongst historians and have encountered it from time to time. A colleague once told me that the area of the past that he specialised in was more important than sport and, as he was primarily interested in the holocaust, I had to agree with him. However, he did have to concede that I might not be entirely wasting my time after I asked him how many times in a day he found himself thinking about Chelsea FC, the club he had identified with since childhood. So I guess that the first thing to say is that we should never let prejudices, when we are confronted with them, go unchallenged.

As a historian I do have problems with what sometimes comes my way as 'sports history' but that's because I have problems with it as 'history'. Some people might find this hard to believe but, if you do a degree in History, you are taught that there are certain practices in research and writing that are distinctively 'historical' and I do think that all 'sports historians' might enhance their academic credibility if they acknowledged this more often and acted accordingly. This is not to say that those who have arrived at sports history via other forms of academic training should stay on the sidelines. The practice of history has to be open to insights derived from other disciplines - without economics there would be no 'economic history', without sociology there would be no 'social history'. Economists and sociologists broaden the basis of history as practiced because they give historians new questions to ask about the past. So I'd be the last person to close the door on someone who has arrived at 'sports history' via sports science or sports sociology or whose life experience in sport gives them a perspective that I would not be likely to encounter in any other way. But, if you are determined to write the history of sport, it's important to understand that historians will tend to judge you by their standards. 'My gaff, my rules', as the pub landlord rightly says.

So, to practicalities ... I think that we have to acknowledge the limits of sports history. When we meet as 'sports historians' our common primary interest and concern is sport and it is quite proper that we have conferences and journals devoted to the particular theme in which we specialise. However, we also have to acknowledge that when we meet together as sports historians or engage with the content of Sport in History or the International Journal of the History of Sport we are mainly talking amongst ourselves. It's important that we do this but it is also important that we engage more systematically with academic colleagues with parallel or related interests for whom sport is not necessarily a priority.

My particular background and experience means that I'm going to focus on how sports historians might raise their profile amongst historians more generally. I'm going to make a few suggestions:

  1. Let's ensure that when we are communicating with each other via our specialist journals that we keep the distinctive nature of the historical project to the forefront. Raising the bar just a little might achieve a lot here. For example, I'd like to see primary sources - especially the newspapers on which sports historians rely so heavily - critiqued rather than simply quoted, as is so often the case. I also have a gut feeling that sports historians handle the problem of selectivity with less facility than many of their colleagues in other branches of history. Making sensible decisions about what to leave out in order to get an argument across convincingly is as important as deciding what we leave in.
  2. I'd also like to see BSSH, for example, taking the lead and offering some form of training on the use of primary sources for sports historians. I'd be happy to contribute to this process but I'm also aware that there are areas where I could benefit from some help. I like to think of myself as an archive rat by temperament and training but I could certainly benefit from a refresher course that would keep me abreast of developments now that so much is available online. The problem facing many of us now is how to deal with too much information rather than too little.
  3. We should be pro-active in bringing sports history into the academic mainstream and there are some small steps that might be beneficial here - offering to review books on the history of sport in non-sports history journals, especially those with a wide remit, such as History, and seeking to place sports history articles in journals that are read beyond our specialised field. The door is more open than we might think. One of the best historians of sport I know (Emma Griffin) is now an editor of History and that thought should give us encouragement. Thinking of ourselves as cultural historians who write about sport rather than a sports historians might help here, but it's not essential. Offering to supply a special issue is a very good idea and usually welcomed by hard-pressed journal editors - Contemporary British History, the Journal of Global History, Labor History, the London Journal and National Identities, for example, have all run 'specials' of this kind in the past few years.
  4. Get active - even in a small way - in another area of history. Turning up, listening and learning - and presenting a paper or two - at conferences which do not have sports history as the main item on the agenda is a good way of enhancing our credibility as historians, and helps us to enhance the credibility of sports history in turn.

Sporting A Handicap: Mainstreaming Sports History Wray Vamplew

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Some of our more vociferous colleagues and critics argue that we could self-improve by merging into mainstream history. I would argue that there is no such thing as mainstream history simply a heterogeneous group of sub-disciplines including political history, social history, cultural history, economic history, black history, gender history, military history, none of which should be privileged above any of the others (though adherents of particular subsets might disagree). Sports history is as 'mainstream' and as relevant as any of these. The only real mainstreamers are those generalists who study periods rather than themes but as non-specialists they are jack of all trades with the obvious corollary.

So what do our critics mean by joining the mainstream? It seems to be a combination of publishing in highly-rated non-sports history journals, getting cited in such journals, contributing to major historical debates, and working at the cutting edge of historical scholarship. I think we do the first two already. Moreover I would assert that we can contribute to major historical issues on race, gender, identity, nationalism (indeed an almost endless list) but the inbuilt prejudice of many non-sport scholars inhibits them from searching out our work. However, we are deficient in that, despite some of us joining the visual, cultural and literary turns, most sports history is not pushing the intellectual boundaries: but then neither is most non-sports history ((which is my preferred terminology rather than mainstream).

Non-sports historians often deride our work saying that it is of poor quality. My counter is that much non-sports history is similarly deficient, especially in the lesser journals where antiquarianism often rules. Our best is as good as many; our worst needs to be improved.

We shouldn't beat ourselves up too much seeking recognition from non-sports historians. It is too reminiscent of the cultural cringe of early British colonials wanting appreciation from the Mother Country. Why should we want to join their (snobby) club? What have they to offer us apart from a pat on the head for providing them with interesting examples? Non-sports historians don't have all the answers: indeed sometimes they don't even know the questions. Let's not get in thrall to non-sports historians. Let's simply pursue sports history but do it as good historians. Here I agree with Dil Porter's suggestion that there is a need for training, particularly in the use and critique of primary sources (archives, newspapers and oral testimony). To that I would add use of theory, application of concepts (from various disciplines), and perhaps elementary statistics. If we get the methodology correct, respect and recognition will follow: and, if they don't so what!


The Future of Sport and Leisure History Bob Snape

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It was interesting to find that Carol and I, without any prior knowledge of what each other was going to say, found notable the recent inclusion of other forms of leisure history within an organisation dedicated to sport history. On checking its website I discovered that the BSSH's purpose is 'to promote the study of the history of sport'; the aim of Sport in History however is to be "concerned with all aspects of sport, leisure and recreation in the past". The International Journal for the History of Sport covers sports history, sport and leisure studies and sports and leisure, so that too accommodates leisure within the field of sport. Is leisure history a sub-set of sport history or is it the other way - is sport history one (very major) form of leisure history?

Peter Bailey has proposed that leisure history is a field of cultural history. However leisure history doesn't have a focal collective association or a dedicated journal. I have since Friday considered the fact that the absence of a Leisure Histories association or journal might simply be a reflection of an absence of need, though a number of prominent historians have in the past expressed enthusiasm for these. Furthermore, Dave showed how much influence the REF now exerts; it is essentially hostile to the kind of developments I spoke about. Yet, there appears to be a groundswell of demand from historians whose interests go beyond sport, as evidenced by the pressures within the BSSH to move towards a wider agenda of sport and leisure.

I don't believe it would be desirable to bring all leisure historiography within a single journal or association - it certainly wouldn't be possible - and there's no reason why any journal or association should change its nature. But I do think there would be advantages to all of us if there were a forum and journal with an holistic focus on leisure, enabling sports, tourism, gambling etc. histories to run alongside more general histories of leisure. This should not affect existing journals and associations as there seems to be a very healthy supply of manuscripts and conference papers. I agree that it seems unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future but things change and who knows?


Sport and Leisure History Futures Simon Eaves

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At the conclusion of a very intense day, I left feeling enthralled, excited, perplexed and overwhelmed, in equal measure. On the one hand, I had to feel privileged to have been invited into the company of so many eminent researchers, yet on reflection, the day seem to concrete in my mind, the almost insurmountable challenges of the modern academic life. I had to question whether it was just me who was barely treading water, against the growing tide of expectation. On the other hand, were there others who felt they too were being drawn into the insidious morass?

Wray Vamplew, in his own inimitable manner, threw me a lifeline, with his "straight-forward polemic"- one had to smile! Mike Huggins took us back to Primary School, and Jean-Francois Loudcher gave us the 'French lesson'. Amongst, often light-hearted discussion, were the underlying messages, and challenges, for the Sport and Leisure Historian. I was perplexed that so few of the assembled mass introduced themselves as 'Sports Historians'- is this part of the challenge? Do we need a Sports Historian Pride Day? Are we part of the problem? If we are to grow, surely we need to embrace our chosen discipline, and takes Wray's view of 'who cares what other people think'. If we are to move forward, we do need a 'critical mass' was a clear message that resonated with me. DMU have this luxury. MMU, under Dave Day's guidance is ever expanding. But, what for the lone, or lonely, researcher? Having been, for much of my career, an academic 'lone wolf', I can empathise with those who are a small voice in a big department. As an outsider to the field of sports history, this seems to be 'the' challenge. So, how do we, as what appears to be an empathetic collective, support our less fortunate colleagues, and in doing so, enhance and promote our field of history research? Perhaps, the collective wisdom of the BSSH has some answers, perhaps not!

As, I crawled home through the Friday afternoon traffic gridlock, I was left with a final thought. That thought remained with me all weekend, sometimes as an unwelcome guest, sometimes a thought-provoking friend. My thought was not 'what can we do?', but 'what can I do?'. I think we all need to ask, and answer, this question. So often, we look to others to lead the way. So often we seek the answers from others. Many of those 'others' were in that room in Crewe last Friday. But, and this is a big but- many of these people are retired, semi-retired, on the verge of retirement, or contemplating it! So what for Sport and Leisure history, when they 'hang up their running shoes'? Ask the question- go on, I dare you?

Oh, and next time someone asks- be proud, and tell them you are a Historian of Sport! I will- I promise.


The practical application of sporting heritage Justine Reilly

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I work as heritage consultant predominantly within the field of sporting heritage. I have a background as a museums and archive professional and also recently completed a PhD in Sport Museums and Cultural Policy. Consequently, I approach the sporting heritage discipline from both theoretical and practical points of view. There are still big gaps between what I see written in the literature and what is actually taking place in practice, and, conversely, there is little practice which draws from a theoretical and academic approach. That's why programmes such as this are absolutely essential. Bringing together everyone with an interest in the field to discuss the current state of play and future development is crucial in ensuring we cross the divide and make sporting heritage a stronger proposition. Not only for its own sake, but also to better support wider agendas such education, health, tourism. There are many reasons why sporting heritage is only just emerging as a field in its own right which I won't go into here, but as a result, sporting heritage activity is increasing every day. The following outlines some of the over-arching national projects that are currently underway, and where partnerships between academia and practice would be very welcome.

Sport in Museums Network

The Sport in Museums Network (previously Sports Heritage Network) have just been awarded three years funding from Arts Council England to support professional development activity. The main aim of the funding is to make sport a more sustainable subject matter for use in museums. This means developing an understanding about what sporting heritage is, why it's relevant to museums, and how it supports wider sectors. We'll be delivering events, webinars, mentoring opportunities, developing regional networks, and establishing a membership scheme. Research and evaluation about progress, impact, and future needs will be ongoing throughout the programme.

National Sporting Heritage Day

This event began last year and is now set to take place every 30th September. The aim of the event is to celebrate the nations' sporting past and begin to normalise sporting heritage as something we do on a consistent basis, rather than in response to major sporting events. Last year's event saw a lot of activity nationally including exhibitions, ask the expert events, and the whole county of Nottinghamshire holding a sporting heritage festival. The research findings demonstrated the impact of the event, and sporting heritage in general, against tourism, education, heritage and sports participation agendas. www.national sportingheritageday.co.uk (our website is currently being updated).

National Paralympic Heritage Project

Paralympic heritage has been underexplored within the literature and in practical delivery. However, this is not because of a lack of objects and stories, because there are many collections held nationally which tell the story of the development of the Paralympic Games. The National Paralympic Heritage Project is seeking to rectify this and is currently undertaking a high-level mapping project to establish the breadth of collections held, the potential that these collections may be loaned or donated to a national centre, and ultimately the opportunity to access funding to establish some form of exhibition narrating the national Paralympic story.

In short, it's an exciting time in the field! For more information, if you have any questions or queries about any of the above, or if you want to get involved on these programmes in anyway, you can contact me on sportingheritage@outlook.com


Public History, Sporting Heritage and Archives: Working with the Private and Non-Profit Sectors Jean Williams

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In 2006 I began to work full time in the International Centre for Sports History and Culture just as Jeff Hill won a two-year AHRC grant: Sport, History and Heritage - a study in the public representation of sport. By 2010 I became increasingly interested in object-based research, as a result of looking into the career of Jennie Fletcher, a swimmer who competed in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games and won a bronze medal in the 100m freestyle event (Britain's first individual Olympic female swimming medal) at the Stockholm Games in 1912. Fletcher was also part of the gold-winning team in the 4x100m freestyle relay ('The Most Important Photograph in the History of Women's Olympic Participation: Jennie Fletcher and the British 4100 Freestyle relay team at the Stockholm 1912 Games' Sport in History 32: 2 204-230 DOI: 10.1080/17460263.2012.681351). She reportedly did so wearing a silk swimming costume, weighing less than three ounces and was so fine that it could pass through a wedding ring. Although I have never been able to locate the specific costume, I subsequently became increasingly interested in both sportswear more generally and in object based research (Kit: Fashioning the Sporting Body - Introduction to the Special Edition Sport in History 35: 1 1-18 DOI: 10.1080/17460263.2014.946956).

Most archives used by historians of sport have traditionally been non-profit organisations. However, in 2012 I visited the Adidas archive in Herzogenaurach in Germany, where we had recently placed a student intern from our MA Sport History and Culture by Distance Learning. The student lived and worked in Germany for six months and was paid by Adidas. I visited towards the end of his time there and did some research on football boots after having previously visited the National Shoe Collection at Northampton Museum ('Given the Boot: Reading the Ambiguities of British and Continental Football Boot Design' Sport in History 35: 1 81-107 DOI: 10.1080/17460263.2014.933747). With colleagues Christopher Stride, David Moor and Nick Catley, I also wrote on the development of the football shirt ('From Sportswear to Leisurewear: The Evolution of English Football League Shirt Design in the Replica Kit Era' Sport in History 35: 1 156-194 DOI: 10.1080/17460263.2014.986518).

The basis of the work of the Adidas History Management Team interns is to build a searchable database of the company footwear, clothing and accessories https://www.adidas-archive.org/#/home/. The company realizes that its own history has wider links with sporting heritage and the exhibitions help to tell that story. Three internships later we are discussing a possible staff secondment as Adidas realizes that historians can help contextualise their collections. There might be valuable conversations to be had here with the Sporting Heritage Network too.

Going one stage further, I recently became a Non Executive Director of the Silverstone Heritage Trust Ltd with Sally Reynolds the Heritage Project Director, Kevin Moore Director of the National Football Museum and three members of the British Racing Driver's Club (BRDC). As well as helping to research the collections, we are bidding for £9 million Heritage Lottery funding to establish a visitor attraction at the circuit. Again, these potential links between the non-profit sector and the Sporting Heritage Network more broadly is suggestive of potential future collaborations for researchers and wider impact of academics in shaping public history.


What Historiography of French Sport History? Jean-Francois Loudcher

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Analyzing the historiography of French sport history in the last forty years would suppose a more substantial paper. I can only try to give you a quick overview through excerpts from the different studies that my colleague Christian Vivier and I have written on this topic1. We have considered that two key elements define the domain:

  1. One is the struggle for being the leader of a defined territory of sport history
  2. The second is about the different ways of writing sport history

Their being strongly linked to one another can explain the struggle in France to control the field of sport history. Classical historians have been looking for new territories to conquer because History itself is in danger due to the shortage of jobs in Universities. However, sport has become an academic topic and some scholars can be appointed as Lecturers or Full Professors. But that is only in Sports institutes. As a result, historians with a classical background have been in competition with those who have a PE background. It is more or less the same phenomenon on the European level. Thus, in order to do so, the aim of these newcomers has been to show that they are the only reference for sport history in France as well as abroad. Moreover, they have been pretending that sport history made in Sport institutes is minor (PE) and/or not very good. Educated in the field of classical history, these scholars have many connections and can very easily present the field of French sport history in that way to national and foreign scholars, who themselves, not very well informed, are under their influence and can easily perpetuate the myth of such a segmented field2.

As a result, the debate about the object and approaches in sport history is a means to win the battle. When the field of sport was not considered academic, only classical history (Ecole des Annales, politics....) seemed legitimate to these scholars. However, with the "cultural turn" (P. Ory), not only did sport become an exotic topic, but new paradigms (structuralism, deconstructivism) or theories (Bourdieu, Foucault) became more or less acknowledged. Moreover, the same scholars who used to be very criticising ten years ago3, have launched a call for more "concepts", acknowledged the debt to the French theories or taken into consideration new objects.

The problem is that many aspects of these "new" approaches were studied by scholars at French sport Institutes4 but not at the right place nor at the right time. They are not very well known. It is because sport has not been considered as a classical topic by non-classical historians that these kinds of original research were possible....

In short, sport history has offered new ways of research because it is an "exotic" topic. This aspect must be maintained by sport historians to keep the "Field" of research as dynamic as ever and win the battle in the Future.


  1. Loudcher J.-F., Vivier C., Gounot André , « French Sports Historiography : Institutional Aspects »,Gounot André (dir.), Le sport en France de 1870 à 1940 - Intentions et interventions, Stadion, n°XXVII, Academia Verlag, Sankt Augustin, 2001, pp.7-21. Vivier C., Loudcher J.-F., Vieille-Marchiset Gilles, « Histoire de l'histoire du sport et de l'é ducation physique en France », Sport History Review, n°36, 2005, pp. 154-178.
  2. Paul Dietschy, Richard Holt, "Sports History in France and Britain: National Agendas and European Perspectives", Journal of Sport History, v. 37, n°1, 2010, pp. 83-98). Holt R., "An interdisciplinary and critical survey", p.p 29-54, Delheye Pascal (ed), Making Sport History: Disciplines, identities and the historiography of sport, Abingdon, Routledge, 2014.
  3. Classical historians but also some others who come from a PE background have followed the mainstream to be recognized. Terret Thierry, "Is There a French Sport History? Reflections on French Sport Historiography", The International Journal of the History of Sport, v. 28, n°14, 2011. Terret Thierry, Froissart Tony (eds.), Le sport, l'historien et l'histoire, Reims, Epure, 2013.
  4. For example, at Besançon, we make image analysis, or we use French theoricians for decades.

A few thoughts on 5th June summit on the 'The Future for Sport and Leisure History' Iain Adams

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A few thoughts on 5th June summit on the 'The Future for Sport and Leisure History' at MMU Crewe (a long period of reflection has taken place amidst such distractions as marking and holidays). As an amateur 'historian' without training and basically a 'lone wolf' (but with stalwart encouragement from Wray and John Hughson) in a largely coaching/sciences department the presentations and discussions were thought provoking. I have oft wondered "How does history 'work'?"

Wray observations were supportive; where does my interest in sport and World War One fit in, is it less valuable than the erudite works on gambling and racing? Wray's definition of history as a heterogeneous group of equal sub- disciplines makes it less worrying that I have no idea who succeeded who in Britain after 1066 (or before that for that matter as British history was never considered at my school).

I would like to see, as Dil suggests, some opportunities to learn about the use of primary resources. Very recently after a couple of days in the archives I was left wondering about how relative some of the 'facts' are. I had noticed that the handwriting in Battalion War Diaries sometimes change after a major battle. Had the original diarist been killed or wounded? Had the new diarist actually been in the battle - a survivor, or had he been in reserve? Or perhaps he was even a casualty replacement fresh from training and nowhere near the battle about which he was summarizing?

The diversity of sub-disciplines represented at these events is stimulating; I am offered a variety of alternative menus to satisfy my hunger. I hope I use some of these ethnic offerings to help educate, inform and entertain my students. I know that some of the things I make students do (write poetry, draw cartoons, write short stories, etc.) challenge them but I know that being monolingual handicaps my research and their work; forcing them to express their knowledge in a variety of ways may help them think about events in other ways.

In a previous life I was a geography/PE teacher (I usually introduce myself as a PE teacher today even though I no longer look like one, sorry Simon not a Sport Historian - I just do not know enough about it!) and made students learn geography through the soles of their feet. I try to keep to the same approach with my expeditions into history. I visited the site of the first football charge, walked down the slope they 'charged' down, saw the overlooking slag heaps, buildings and pit-head gear offering superb locations for defending machine gun posts and snipers, sat and read relevant sections of autobiographies on the battlefield. Then visited the graves of the fallen and the memorial plaques for the missing. This makes me feel that I am in a small way meeting Arnold Toynbee's idea that "it is a historian's business to make himself at home in other times and places in order to bring those times and places alive again for contemporaries." But theory? Perhaps in future meetings our big guns can be cajoled into offering a PE teachers guide to Foucault and other foreign chaps?


The future of Sports History Carol Osbourne

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In this blog about the future of sports history, Carol Osborne argues that the discipline's constituency must be extended - both as a means of consolidating the existing critical mass and to facilitate a more inclusive research agenda.

The future of Sports History:

- Impression management

In writing about the future of sports history I don't wish to imply that those working in the discipline need to worry about its survival. In fact, if the numbers of academics researching and publishing sports history nationally and internationally are anything to go by, the health of the discipline appears to be good.

As Dion Georgiou and Ben Litherland recently observed, sports historians can be found in all sorts of sport-related departmental and disciplinary configurations. Therein, perhaps, lies the problem. Often those sports historians working in HE, usually within social science programmes, find themselves the sole representative of their discipline and, with that, simultaneously conspicuous and marginal to associated operations. Whilst some occupy positions in history departments teaching a smattering of specialist undergraduate modules, the existence of 'lone' sports historians represents a challenge: if not for the vibrancy of the discipline itself, then for the appearance of it as a distinctive area, worthy of research and study in its own right.

This is what makes identifying, supporting and actively promoting the existence of critical masses within our discipline important. Currently in HE these coalesce around two key sites of teaching, research and publication activity. At De Montfort University there is the well-established International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) and at Manchester Metropolitan University an emerging force within the discipline is the International Sports and Leisure History Research Team (SpLeisH). As collective enterprises ICSHC and SpLeisH are generally better placed than individual scholars to fly the flag for sports history and meet the challenges posed by an increasingly marketised sector demanding income, outputs and impact. In such a climate these centres are not only compelled to consolidate their existing areas of expertise, but to reach out and find new ways of extending the discipline to ensure its viability.

As an historian working in a social sciences programme concerned with matters of diversity, equity and inclusion, I believe that one way of reaching out is to foster a more diverse and inclusive research agenda. For such a view to gain traction a critical mass needs to generate around it.

- If you can't see it, you can't be it

Currently, no strong voice has been given to the fact that race and ethnicity remains marginal to research associated with 'British' sports history, by which I mean that associated with the home nations - something which has implications for the writing of history itself. This is undoubtedly an easier observation to make than to address, bearing in mind the discipline took many years to navigate similar waters in terms of bringing women into the constituency and narrative. Only with the coming together of a critical mass - and the confidence this generated between the individual scholars comprising it - did the situation begin to change.

In the case of race and ethnicity lack of representation can again be identified as the problem.

We can look outwards and ask the question where are the scholars from multicultural backgrounds to inform such research? But first we must look inwards and ask what evidence is there to show that our existing constituency cares about the histories associated with them? If there is little or no evidence forthcoming, then how can we claim that our discipline holds appeal for all who share an interest in sports history and might otherwise wish to join us?

This suggests the need to develop a contemporary historical research agenda that accounts for and, ultimately, integrates the sport and leisure experiences of communities in Britain thus far overlooked. From this perspective those in HE researching and teaching sports history can learn from the critical questions asked of the school curriculum and how these are being addressed in practice.

- Method matters

This call for a more inclusive sports history also requires a consideration of methodology - that is if we are serious about properly including those typically referred to as black, minority and ethnic (BME) groups within our disciplinary remit. Whilst archival research is central to our discipline, it does not work for all people in all sports. To stand any chance of making inroads, our evidential currency must involve the oral testimony of living subjects, with a view to producing outputs relevant to them. This is where those working in sports heritage and museums seem to have stolen the march on academic historians, not least by capitalising on the Cultural Olympiad and the thinking behind the Our Sporting Life initiative. Practitioners in these sectors have continued to place the general public as subjects at the heart of their work. In doing so, they have convincingly managed to animate local and regional interest in sports history and heritage.

- It's good to talk!

Oral testimony is surprisingly under-used by academic sports historians. It is well known that the method can lend depth to a narrative grounded in documentary sources, but perhaps less well accepted that for groups where such sources are lacking it must be the essential grounding evidence. The practice of oral history invests the experiences of participants with a value they may not have recognised for themselves, that is, without the opportunity to talk in a focused way about the place of sport within their own lives and communities. Regardless of the imperatives associated with generating income and outputs, the impact this implies surely speaks for itself.

Comments to: C.Osborne@leedsbeckett.ac.uk or Tweet @osborne_carol


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