This podcast from Prof Mike Huggins, from a collection of short papers on aspects of sport and leisure history, has its origins in two North-West British Society of Sports History regional symposia hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University on its Crewe campus. The contributors come from many different backgrounds and include some of Britain’s leading academic sports and leisure historians alongside early career researchers and independent scholars in the field of sports and leisure history. The full collection of papers were later published in book form, Sport and Leisure Histories, please click here for more details and purchase information



According to Peter Borsay, even before proto-industrialization, north-western towns were in the forefront of an urban economic and social renaissance that saw new trends in high-status, fashionable architecture, new retailing forms, and social exploitation of urban space. But as the north-west became more industrialized, its leisure life, especially during the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has become increasingly of interest to leisure historians and this study provides an overview of the current state of the field during this key period. For reasons of space it focuses on academic books and refereed articles covering the period, since the huge numbers of more popular books, especially on north-west sporting topics, make their inclusion unmanageable

‘Leisure’ and the ‘North-west’ are both problematic terms. Leisure historians and sociologists have long debated the term ‘leisure’,  while the ‘north-west’ is not a region in the sociocultural sense.  It is a complex, self-defined historical, discursive and slippery concept, and represented in a multiplicity of ways, dependent on individual perspectives and mental maps.  In one sense the notion is geographical, but it is much more a cultural construct. Geographically and in terms of county boundaries the north-west is often assumed to include Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire and Cheshire, as well as, more arguably, part of the former West Riding. It is heavily diversified. Whilst parts of the north-west are heavily urbanized, some upland areas of the Pennines, the Lake District, and north Cumbria are extremely rural, as are arable areas on the coastal plains. Metropolitan views can be somewhat different. The London-based census authorities for example, in 1911 saw the the North-West region as including Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. And of course, linguistic and dialect analysis offers yet another and rather different dimension. Analysis of the literature of tourism, fiction, broadcasting, the stage, and film and television would blur definitions still further. So our received mental images of the north-west are redeployed and re-contained constantly in ever-changing socio-cultural contexts.

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Article © Mike Huggins