The first book of its kind, this lively history of British sport since 1800 goes beyond a few great names and moments to explain how sports have changed, what they have meant to ordinary people, and reveals what is especially distinctive about British sport in particular. The British were innovators in abandoning traditional, often brutal, sports, and in establishing a code of "fair play," which spread throughout the late Victorian Empire. They were also pioneers in popular sports and in the promotion of organized commercial spectator events, with the accompanying rise of professionalism.
'a wide-ranging, attractive book, which is perhaps the best of its kind.'
Times Literary Supplement
`an ideal introductory text ... The range and richness of the subjects are inviting to historians, and Holt supplies us with an indispensable vade-mecum.'
English Historical Review
'Rightly lauded in hardback a year ago, this affordable paperback edition places sport within the context not just of British history but of the people`s history.'
'this is an outstanding history of sport`s social role in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain...everyone can learn from Holt`s approach to sports history'
Economic History Review
'This is a hugely enjoyable as well as enlightening book. The highest recommendation I can give it is this: I loathe sport, and I couldn't put it down.'
Campbell Ferguson, Daily Mail
'rather an exploration of attitudes than a compendium of facts, and is sensibly divided in a chronological sequence into sociological themes ... The author has an historian's eye for the fascinating snippet or the prescient utterance.'
Antony Kamm, Scotland on Sunday
'one of the most important books of the year ... This is the first properly researched history of British sport since 1800.'
Peter Markie, The Star (Sheffield)
'A comprehensive and entertaining survey of the games we play and the characters they have formed over the centuries.'
'a most readable general social history of British sport, which treats the subject with sufficient depth to command confidence and enough breadth to allow the conclusions to come through unforced. The book deserves to be popular with the general reader, the serious student, and the sports fan'
Physical Education Review
'lively and deeply researched...combining entertaining anecdotes with more serious historical understanding'
'Why is rugby union a mass sport in Wales and a middle-class one in England? Why should anyone but a mental defective hunt foxes? Fascinating questions, and Richard Holt has some fascinating answers.'
'an invaluable, innovative work'
KEEP ON FILE BUT DO NOT USE 'Astonishingly, Sport and the British is the first serious attempt to make sense of sport as part of the general social history of modern Britain. Mr Holt, an academic, is quite capable of taking on the grim sociologists of sport, but he wisely confines his bout with their abstractions to an appendix and concentrates instead on more interesting themes, such as why rugby football is a middle-class game in
England but `the one great pastime of the people' in Wales; the importance of sport in the Empire; the persecution of early female bicyclists in their `Rationals' (rational clothes, e.g. bloomers) or the genesis of the uniquely
British notion of `fair play'.'
'He has produced a political, cultural, social and economic history of British sport ... and the book is fascinating'
Simon Barnes, The Times
'Richard Holt is something of a rarity among sports academics and historians: a man whose passion for his subject actually comes across in the way he writes. Holt has researched extremely widely, and his anecdotes, quotations and references are all cleverly blended into the narrative ... this is a book that will interest anyone who, like the author, has never quite given up the habit of loving sport.'
Andrew Shields, Sport & Leisure
'a splendid and recently published book, one I have mentioned before but which is well worth mentioning several times more'
Simon Barnes, The Times
'A broader sense of vision informs Richard Holt's book, making it readable and vivid as well as scholarly.'
New Statesman and Society
'A sane, well-balanced and engrossing view of cultural, social and psychological effects on players, spectators and politicians alike.'
Nicholas Lezard, Sunday Correspondent
'our journey from 1800 to the present is spread over nearly 400 scholarly pages'
Michael Emery, Birmingham Post
'as acute, comprehensive and witty a guide to the development and present state of our complex sporting scene as one could possible hope for ... The execrable banality of most sports writing makes Mr Holt's flair and style all the more exhilarating.'
Times Educational Supplement
'comprehensive survey of the place Sport has come to occupy in British life'
'an entirely entertaining examination of the social and recreational aspects of sporting pastimes'
Tony Firth, Yorkshire Post
'scintillating study ... Imaginatively conceived and stylishly written as narrative social history ... Richard Holt's book, then, so formidably informed, so illuminating in its insights, so articulate in argument, is a triumphant vindication of what most of us who read this Journal like to think we are about ... This is a book that fizzes and sparkles like uncorked champagne.'
Gareth Williams, University College of Wales, International Journal of the History of Sport
'This is a solid, well-written and interesting general history of men's sport in Britain ... The illustrations in this book are outstanding. Labour historians and many other readers will enjoy this book because of the author's obvious pleasure in writing about sport.'
Stan Shipley, Havering Technical College, Labour History Review, Vol.55, No.3, Winter 1990
'this is an outstanding history of sport's social role in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain ... everyone can learn from Holt's approach to sports history'
Wray Vamplew, Flinders University of South Australia, The Economic History Review, Second Series, Volume XLIII, No.2, May 1990
'marvellous book ... His real skill is as a synthesist, and that skill is an invaluable one.'
Brian Stoddart, University of Canberra, Sporting Traditions, Vol. 7, No. 2, May 1991