British Sport: A Social History

By Dennis Brailsford

A survey of British sport, from the Middle Ages to the present, placing sport in the wider ambit of British life and examining its social implications.

ISBN: 9780718829773


With the enormous popularity of sporting events on television and radio, a primary text giving an overview of British sporting development became increasingly necessary for the general reader as well as for the growing number of students studying Sport and Physical Education courses at colleges and universities. Dennis Brailsford’s book has filled that gap.

Moving beyond a chronological record, this account places sport within the wider context of British life, examining its social, political, financial and international implications. The roles and styles of play that have marked the varying stages of British social history are discussed, and their influence on our contemporary experience made clear. Significant changes in the total sporting picture are identified. The reader is invited to participate by concentrating on how local experience contributes to our national appreciation of the sporting panorama.

The illustrations in the book include many photographs of existing sporting landmarks of historical significance, and suggest to the reader that valuable pointers to the history of sport can be found in everyday scenes, such as public-house signs and street names.

From the knightly sports of jousting and hunting to the role of the media in modern sport, this is a fascinating insight into our sporting past and present.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 160
Illustrations b&w

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Dr Dennis Brailsford, formerly Director of North Worcestershire College, Bromsgrove, later became Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham. He frequently visits and lectures in North America and Europe, and has made broadcasts on BBC Radio. He is a member of the North American Society for Sport History, and the author of several books on sporting history.



1. Let’s Sport and Play
2. Reform, Revolt, Purity, and Pleasure
3. Sport, Politeness, and Profit
4. Sport in Smoke and Shadow
5. Playing Fair
6. Edwardians and After
7. Britain in a Sporting World


Endorsements and Reviews

A scholarly and sober examination of the historical uses of British leisure time … full of statistics that will amaze and astound your friends … a useful and unusual addition to the small library of sports books that educate as well as simply inform.
Nick Hornby, in The Sunday Times

The best available introductory history on this topic from the Middle Ages to the early 1800s … Brailsford is probably the leading expert on British sport in the early modern period … the book is valuable for the undergraduate student and those interested in sport and society in Britain.
Sporting Traditions

Well worth the effort for those eager to know why and how football, racing and cricket became the very epitome of English sport.
Time Off

A fascinating study … useful for students of sport/ physical education courses from G.C.S.E. to degree level. Anyone with a love of sport, no matter which sport it is, will be fascinated by this lively and critical account.
All Sport & Leisure Monthly

Dennis Brailsford’s splendid little book gives amusing and instructive insights into the fact that there is little in today’s sports which has not figured in bygone centuries. There is something for everyone.
Sports Teacher

Dennis Brailsford is the doyen of British historians of sport. The most striking of his qualities is again much in evidence – a confident, polished and elegant style. Brailsford has produced a pleasant collection of available information on the evolution of English sport in a highly readable form and with good tempered judgements on men (mostly) and matters. Much to his credit he does attempt to set sport in its cultural context, and his attractive facility with his pen ensures that he does this with effective aplomb.
Tony Mangan, in The Scottish Journal of Physical Education

An immensely valuable work which will introduce the undergraduate and postgraduate student to some of the main concerns of social historians about British sport.
Richard Cashman, University of New South Wales

Hailed for the ‘doyen of British histories of sport’, this comprehensive title is one of the most affordable of the major reference works in the field of the social side of sport.
Graham Sharpe, in All Sport & Leisure Monthly