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British Sport: A Social History.

Mr. Brailsford, a sports history specialist, provides a sober yet enchanting appraisal of his subject from mediaeval to modern times: from jousting to soccer, archery to darts. The sociology of sport seems to be a huge and barely touched subject, where rites and rituals change but essentials do not. Violence was far from unknown and rioting after wrestling matches. And there is a modern sound to the Bishop's lament in the 15th century: folk go willingly to a long days occupation, to wrestlings and fairs and spectacles and vain bodily recreations when they will scarce trouble to go one mile to hear a sermon. Today's fears that the huge commercialism and concentration on spectator sport may kill it, seems so far unfounded and popular enthusiasm, whether as an outlet for aggression or a religious need remains. Who ever, said one bemused foreigner, can define sport can define an Englishman; today both remain an enigma. Bull leaping in ancient Crete and an Underground station called Arsenal may have more in common than we know. The illustrations to this book can make one wish for a real illustrated history, on its own. Mr. Brailsford, who has already written the story of prize fighting, may yet oblige. MOLLY MORTIMER
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Author:Mortimer, Molly
Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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