John Dewhirst has written widely about the history of Bradford City having been the co-founder of The City Gent fanzine in 1984 and been involved in the production of ten books about the club, of which four as the sole author.
The BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED SERIES is his initiative to publish a series of books charting the history of sport in Bradford – principally football – from its origins to the present day. Whereas most club histories are typically statistical in nature and record what happened, the HISTORY REVISITED books seek explain why events occurred in the way that they did with a focus on themes that are often overlooked. The series is self-published independently by BANTAMSPAST.
As a longstanding City supporter he has amassed a considerable collection of Bradford sporting artefacts and his book A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY AFC IN OBJECTS (2014) provides an illustrated record of memorabilia and club artefacts dating back to 1903. More than one thousand artefacts are included. Described by Hunter Davies as ‘The best illustrated history of any club I have ever read’, the book provides a history not only of the club but of the artefacts themselves and narrates the continuity and change in categories of football ephemera as diverse as programmes, handbooks, tickets, souvenirs and merchandise. It explains the evolution of the club identity and also incorporates a history of supporter organisations at Valley Parade since 1903.
A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS was the first volume in the series HISTORY REVISITED. Three other books have been published in the series and two more are planned.
REINVENTING BRADFORD CITY by Jason McKeown (2016) traces the changes at Valley Parade in the 30 years since the rebuilding of the ground in 1986 and his narrative is told by focusing on a dozen different games, exploring the significance of each in a historic context.
ROOM AT THE TOP: THE ORIGINS OF PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL IN BRADFORD AND THE RIVALRY OF BRADFORD FC AND MANNINGHAM FC by John Dewhirst (2016) narrates the origins of sport in Bradford and the social and economic drivers impacting upon the rise of cricket, athleticism and football in what was a nineteenth century industrial frontier town. By 1890 Bradford FC was considered one of the richest clubs in England, a status quickly undermined as it was overtaken by wealthier Football League clubs. The book contributes to the origins debate by providing a forensic study of local circumstances and identifies themes that were unique to the town, in particular the impact of urban geography and the manner in which soccer was crowded out by rugby. The contribution of sport to the identity of the town and its encouragement of civic patriotism is also covered. The book is illustrated with examples of artefacts and memorabilia from the nineteenth century.
LIFE AT THE TOP: THE RIVALRY OF MANNINGHAM FC AND BRADFORD FC AND THEIR CONVERSION TO SOCCER by John Dewhirst (2016). Alongside ROOM AT THE TOP, this title offers what is probably the first business history of rugby by tracing the growth of the Manningham and Bradford clubs, the factors behind their secession from the Rugby Union in 1895 and then conversion to soccer that led to abandoning rugby in 1903 and 1907 respectively. Bradford is the only town that had two senior clubs switching codes in this way. The author challenges the prevailing interpretation about the split in English rugby in 1895 and focuses on the commercial factors that forced the breakaway Northern Union. Among other themes investigated is the life cycle of junior rugby clubs and what led both to their mushrooming in the 1880s and subsequent disappearance at the end of the nineteenth century. The author offers insights into the management and decision-making structures of the Bradford clubs which would be of interest to those studying organisational dynamics within sports clubs generally.
John Dewhirst is currently working on a history of the two Bradford clubs in the Football League: FALL FROM THE TOP: THE WOOL CITY RIVALS, 1908-74. This will incorporate a comprehensive selection of artefacts and provide study of the club finances that led to their collapse from the first to the fourth division and the subsequent liquidation of the Park Avenue club. The competition with rugby will also be addressed.
Jason McKeown is working on the sixth volume in the series that will examine how Bradford City AFC has sought to market itself in the face of competition from other leisure activities and the manner in which it has defined its brand.
John welcomes contacts from those interested in researching the origins and development of sport in the nineteenth century. Extracts from the above books have also been published at www.bradfordsporthistory.wordpress.com