Please cite this article as:
Piercey, N. and Oldfield, S.J. Introduction, In Piercey, N. and Oldfield, S.J. (ed), Sporting Cultures: Global Perspectives (Manchester: MMU Sport and Leisure History, 2019), i-ii.
ISBN paperback 978-1-910029-49-7
Introduction & Acknowledgements
Nick Piercey and Samantha-Jayne Oldfield
The chapters in this book arose from the 4th International Colloquium for Sport History held at Manchester Metropolitan University, Crewe, in spring 2018. The colloquium marked the end of the International Sport and Leisure History Research Team’s (SpLeisH) decade-long association with Higher Education in Cheshire and drew together valuable colleagues and supporters of the SpLeisH network. While scholars reflected on the network’s historical impact, the focus of the colloquium was on shaping the future of sport history and considering how the discipline could expand its themes and subjects to give a more global perspective on sporting cultures. The chapters, which form this collection, bring together experienced academics, early career researchers and doctoral students who represent the diversity of contemporary sport history research and provide a range of new perspectives that demonstrate the vitality and importance of this field of study. The chapters provide new research on the intersections between issues of class, gender, race, politics, space and identities with room for reflection on the role of the historian and their subjects.
Rob Hess considers the troubles faced in conducting sport history in the twenty-first century, especially in the uncovering of hidden histories. Through the biography of a female Australian Rules footballer, Myra McKenzie, Hess comments on the role of the researcher in illuminating the narratives of subjects that have limited archival records and who, in some cases, researchers do not know exist. Marjet Derks focuses on the link between politics and sport in the Netherlands since the late nineteenth Century. Derks highlights how, despite an often ambiguous and cautious relationship, sport has become an important factor in the construction of a particularly ‘Dutch’ identity, as well as becoming a fundamental part of wider civic culture.
Iain Adams examines the role of art in re-constructing and re-imagining sporting memories, providing insight into the 2014 ‘Bridging the gap’ art initiative, which focused on artistic re-interpretations of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Kamil Potrzuski reflects on the ambitious and ultimately unrealised plan to develop new sporting spaces in Warsaw during the interbellum. Investigating how the Olympic Games provided a recurring source of inspiration for those behind urban development, Potrzuski charts the complex political and social factors behind the ‘Amusement and Sport Park’ idea, demonstrating that unsuccessful ideas can still provide valuable research for historians. Ray Physick also looks at the complexity of political and sporting relations, considering the role of sport in Catalonia during the early phase of the Spanish Civil War. Despite an initial revolutionary fervour amongst sporting associations, sport became an increasingly militarised affair, dashing the hopes of those who anticipated a new form of society. Dejan Zec places the spotlight on the May 1939 tour of the English national football team to Yugoslavia. Using sport as the locus for a wider examination of the cultural, social and political impact of the tour, Zec demonstrates that the match against ‘Proud Albion’ was not only a way to measure the footballing power of the Yugoslav team, but an event intimately linked to concepts of identity and the importance of ‘soft power’ in international diplomacy.
Liam Dyer challenges the existing athletic discourse, highlighting the role of regional athletic institutions in the dissemination of amateur values. Viewing sport through the lens of the north-south divide, Dyer uncovers the hidden histories of Northern Counties Athletic Association administrators, establishing their significance in shaping the Amateur Athletic Association. Derek Martin also challenges orthodox views, reflecting on the role of women within nineteenth century athletic history. Detailing the feats of several Northern female pedestriennes, Martin examines these hidden sporting celebrities who revived interest in long-distance walking during the sport’s decline.
Lisa Taylor deconstructs both class and gender through the biography of Mrs K L Summerton, a leading figure in the establishment of the Women’s Amateur Rowing Association, challenging the position of women within traditional male sporting spaces and the wider organisational structure of British rowing. Keith Myerscough intersects race and gender through the examination of a localised version of basketball, Black Fives, played in the inner-city districts of North America. Providing insight into the women who formed Black Fives teams and leagues within the African-American communities of Chicago and Harlem, Myerscough highlights the rich history of this localised pastime and encourages sports historians to consider different expressions of sport within academic research. Finally, Conor Heffernan examines the under-represented connection between animals and humans in sporting history and suggests that research into their symbiotic relationship can provide new insights into the everyday lived experience of sporting cultures. Utilising reports on the exploits of Sandow, Heliot and their lions, Heffernan demonstrates that animals were not passive participants in an entertaining show, but active agents in discourses of race, masculinity and gender.
Taken together, these chapters demonstrate the importance of sporting history in challenging existing narratives and contributing to new social, political and cultural histories across the globe.
This book would not have been possible without the hard work and support of a variety of organisations and individuals. We would particularly like to thank the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the British Society of Sports History, MMU Cheshire International and MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange for their generous support of the colloquium and this publication. In addition, we would like to express our appreciation to all the authors who have worked with us to present their exciting research. Finally, we would like to thank all those who braved the snow to take part at the 2018 International Sport and Leisure Colloquium and to make the SpLeisH network such an academically stimulating environment.