This Sporting Life: Sport and Liberty in England, 1760-1960 (Hardback)
  • This Sporting Life: Sport and Liberty in England, 1760-1960 (Hardback)
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This Sporting Life: Sport and Liberty in England, 1760-1960 (Hardback)

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Hardback 416 Pages / Published: 27/08/2020
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Why did killing a fox mean liberty? What did parish revels have to do with the Peterloo Massacre? What did animal cruelty have to do with the English constitution? What did the Factory Acts mean for modern football? In This Sporting Life, Robert Colls explains sport as one of England's great civil cultures. The lived experiences of people from all walks of life are reclaimed to tell England's history through its great sporting cultures, from the horseback pursuits of the wealthy and politically connected, to the street games in working-class neighbourhoods which needed nothing but a ball. It observes people at play, describes how they felt and thought, carries the reader along to a match or a hunt or a fight, draws out the sounds and smells of humans and animals, showing that sport has been as important in defining British culture as gender, politics, education, class, and religion.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780198208334
Number of pages: 416
Weight: 768 g
Dimensions: 236 x 163 x 28 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
Eccentric, erudite and often very funny... [a] dazzling history of sport in England... Every page is a delight. * Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times, Best History Books of the Year 2020 *
Robert Colls has taken on 200 years of English history through the prism of its culturally neglected sports - common, exclusive, innovative, brutal. He's written a definitive work not only of our sporting life, but also of our social texture. * Melvyn Bragg, New Statesman, Books of the Year 2020 *
Robert Colls's exploration of sport in England between 1760 and 1960 is like no sporting history I have ever read... Eccentric, dazzlingly learned and often very funny... Colls is a historian of matchless insight and admirably democratic range. * Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times *
This Sporting Life displays exhausting quantities of erudition... The prose is lively even in the footnotes... there are jewels on every page... There is more life in these pages than can be explained, or needs to be. * Simon Kuper, Financial Times *
Superb... This is much more than a history of sport; it is really an alternative history of England itself... This book is full of moments that pull you up short and make you think. * Alex Massie, The Spectator *
Colls has combined painstaking research with elegant prose to produce a thoroughly readable history of British sports and pastimes over two hundred years. In doing so he has breathed new life into an often-neglected corner of British history. * Emma Griffin, Literary Review *
[A] quirky and strikingly original social history of England through its sports, games and pastimes... beautifully and inventively expressed, witty and bawdy in places... perhaps the most impressive element of This Sporting Life is its light touch, the way it never quite loses sight of the fact that at its heart, sport is fun. * Jonathan Liew, New Statesman *
A remarkably and admirably human history, full of empathy for people of all classes and condescension towards none... Crackling on the page, Colls's prose elucidates and amuses in equal measure and with equal sharpness. * Stephanie Barczewski, Times Literary Supplement *
strongly recommended contribution to the history of the emotions * Daniele Serapiglia, Passato e Presente *
thought-provoking...readable...valuable...novel..intuitive.. excellent example of how a topic can be revitalised by thinking creatively... * Dave Day, idrottsforum *
A monograph of monumental importance...placing sport at the forefront of civil culture in Britain. A work of national and international importance that should provide a platform for similar studies in other countries. * Keith Laybourn, Labour History Review *
I'd like to say something about style. Colls is a master. He can be-in turn-witty, slapstick comic, ironic, satirical, sarcastic, lyrical, sombre, or elegiac. Sometimes he's Robert Surtees and sometimes he's John Milton. Mostly, I think, he's Pierce Egan. Whatever the tone, he's a marvel at the epigram. * Allen Guttmann, author of From Ritual to Record. The Nature of Modern Sports *
At heart this book is the best kind of social history: vivid, revelatory and penned by an author who seems to know the byways of every county in England... a joyous book of dazzling scholarship. * Dan Jackson, History Today *
This is both a vivid and thought-provoking read... I would recommend the book to anyone skeptical of the historical significance of sport. * Lincoln Allison, The Critic *
[This Sporting Life] is absorbing, original, and entertaining... Colls is a formidable historian of England and English identity * Simon Heffer, New Criterion *
An exemplary work and one that illuminates with stories rather than numbing with statistics... Colls' previous work, in particular 'Identity of England' (2002) and 'George Orwell: English Rebel' (2013), established his credentials as a historian on a mission to restore the experiences of the working-classes to the national record - the Jack Tars, pitmen and pugilists - but to do so through hard evidence not special pleading... Nowhere is this better realised than in his final chapter on football. * John Mitchinson, Byline Times *
It is when Colls rises to the challenge of his subtitle - 'Sport and Liberty' - that the book really soars. * John Mitchinson, Byline Times *
A great read for anyone who loves sport... free of jargon and and full of what people actually did... The writing is full of memorable phrases, wry comments and thoughtful insights into human behaviour... a message that could have been penned by George Orwell himself. * Philip Cottam, The Arbuturian *
This fascinating and engagingly written book is about much more than sport: customs, tradition, place, identity, national myths as well as national stories all have their place. Colls has written the best book I have read on George Orwell, and this book too is definitive. * Jason Cowley, Editor of The New Statesman *
The two most successful and positive exports from this country are the English language and organized sport. The profound influence of sport has been grievously unacknowledged. In his new book, Robert Colls puts this right by bringing its history to life and linking it quite brilliantly with common notions of liberty, patriotism, and belonging. He also shows the part modern sport played in replacing the many textures of our traditional patterns of social life. It's vivid, passionate, and goes to the heart of a subject which in so many ways is now the dominating conversation in peoples' lives. * Melvyn Bragg, Broadcaster *
A brilliant book by one of my favourite British historians...giving the real thrill of first hand research and covering every corner of our national life. Even if you don't like sport you will like this book. * John Mitchinson, Backlisted Podcast *
This is a wonderful book. It is engrossing,beautifully written, overflowing with insight into England and English ideas of liberty as manifest through sport.It is a history of sport unlike any other and is nothing short of exhilarating. * Paul Rouse, School of History, University College Dublin *
Sparkling and scholarly, Robert Colls' new history of sport is expertly set within the wider context of English society and culture. Abounding with fresh insights, sport is celebrated and explained from Regency prize-fights to Wembley Cup Finals; vibrantly written, full of dramatic incidents and exceptional individuals. * Richard Holt, author of Sport and the British: A Modern History *

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