British Society of Sports History

Promoting the Study of the History of Sport

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13 September 2020

 **POSTPONED**: 'Women in Sport' at the University of Worcester

This event, run by the Women's History Network West Midlands Region and supported by the BSSH was scheduled to take place in November 2020. Despite a great variety of abstracts being submitted, the University of Worcester has taken the decision that the maximum group size for face-to-face is 30 people, meaning the event would have to have taken place online. Instead, it will be rescheduled for a Saturday in November 2021. The exact date will be confirmed as soon as possible.


The call for papers has been re-opened, with Dr Wendy Toon inviting submissions until May 1 2021 - click here for further info.


18 August 2020

Early Career Researcher Grant - Trip Report

Dr Samuel Clevenger of the Department of Kinesiology at Towson University visited the Port Sunlight Museum, Liverpool in January this year. Below is his report.


The Bowling Green at Port Sunlight
The Bowling Green at Port Sunlight


With the generous support of the Society’s Early Career Researcher Grant, I was fortunate to travel from Washington D.C. to Liverpool to conduct archival research at the Port Sunlight Museum. Incidentally, the trip occurred in January of this year, just before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown of international travel. My goal during the trip was to acquire a better understanding of the sport, recreation, and leisure experiences of the factory workers who lived at Port Sunlight, the model industrial village constructed in the late 1800s by soap industrialist William Hesketh Lever. The Port Sunlight Museum is a vital archives of resources for such a project, for the museum houses an extensive collection of materials related to the genesis and evolution of the historic village along with materials created by Lever’s soap firm Lever Brothers (known today as the multinational corporation Unilever). During my visit, I was able to scour years of Lever Brothers publications, most importantly the company’s “Monthly Journal” which recorded village activities and meetings and was distributed to the workers who resided in Port Sunlight. I was also able to learn from the expertise and guidance of James Hayes, a local historian of Port Sunlight and a staff member of the Port Sunlight Village Trust. Indeed, I owe a debt of gratitude to Hayes and the staff at the Village Trust, who generously shared with me their time, expertise, and space necessary to conduct the archival research. The research resulted in a wealth of notes and source materials concerning the history of sport, recreation, and leisure at Port Sunlight, and will hopefully help form the basis of multiple publications highlighting the significance of sport in the historical experiences of the workers who lived in some of most famous planned communities in Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

16 June 2020

Rhianna Levy Wins Inaugural BSSH EPQ Award

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the inaugural BSSH Award for best sports history-related EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) project is Rhianna Levy from Reigate College, for her essay entitled: "Is genetics the primary factor influencing the rise of black dominance in sport?"



The judges said that they were impressed with Rhianna's critical thinking, her willingness to tackle cultural and historical issues head on, and the variety of methods used, which included an oral interview and a questionnaire. She "showed a genuine cultural imagination, great initiative, and a sense of intellectual risk", offering "honest and robust conclusions".


"We are really pleased that we are still able to offer this award, even amidst the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic," said BSSH Chair Raf Nicholson. "Thank to the judges for their hard work in making this happen - and huge congratulations to Rhianna!"


Rhianna wins £100 in Amazon vouchers and a year's membership of BSSH, and will be offered the opportunity to present her work at the BSSH's 2021 conference at St Mary's University, Twickenham (postponed from August 2020).



7 June 2020

Master's (MRes) Scholarships launched by Liverpool Hope University with Everton Football Club

Two Master's Scholarships (MRes) on the History of Everton FC and the History of Everton in the Community will be offered. 


To mark Everton Football Club’s historic transition from Goodison Park stadium to Bramley Dock, Liverpool Hope University is offering x2 one year Master's Scholarships (MRes) on a) The History of Everton FC and b) the History of club charity Everton in the Community.

• The MRes Scholarships will be awarded following a competitive application process open to anyone with a 2:1 undergraduate degree (BA) in History or History and another subject (either achieved, or predicted if currently in final year university study).
• Both scholarships are demanding research-intensive posts with an emphasis on disciplined and self-directed research. The recipients will undertake one taught methodologies module as part of the Hope History Masters programme, but the onus would be on research and writing, with the successful applicant required to produce a high quality dissertation of around 30,000 words specifically devoted to one aspect of the History of Everton FC as well as a 6,000 chapter to be published in a new club history.
• To be supervised by a specialist in modern history from Liverpool Hope University’s History and Politics team, Associate Professor Bryce Evans.

Potential topics of enquiry include:
a) The History of Everton FC
An unconventional or underexplored aspect of the History of Everton Football Club, with preference given to proposals exploring the social, economic, political or cultural impact of the club rather than conventional accounts of great players or managers
b) The History of Everton in the Community Charity –
A history of the charity (established 1988) or a specific aspect of Everton in the Community’s work

The scholarship will cover course fees of £5,200 per scholar plus reasonable research expenses incurred by the scholars.

The scholarship will run from the commencement of MRes studies in September 2020 to September 2021.

Successful applicants must produce, within the time period, a 30,000 word dissertation of which 6,000 words will be converted into a publishable book chapter.

Applicants to send a brief expression of interest to Associate Professor Bryce Evans ( by 21 August 2020. Brief expression of interest (maximum 300 words) to contain:
• Name
• Details of Undergraduate grade achieved or predicted grade in History or History and another subject
• Which scholarship you wish to apply for – MRes in the History of Everton FC OR MRes in the History of Everton in the Community
• Outline of proposed topic of enquiry

18 May 2020

BSSH Archive Project

Our Society is now almost forty years old, certainly old enough to attract the attention of researchers interested in its development and in the development of sports history more generally.

BSSH stalwart Malcolm Maclean, chair from 2007 to 2010, has donated a collection of documents relating to his work with the Society and these have now been deposited at the Archives and Special Collections Department at the Kimberlin Library, De Montfort University, Leicester, who have kindly agreed to help us develop a BSSH archive.

We are now looking to build on this solid foundation, a process kindly being facilitated by Dil Porter ( He would welcome contact from any members who may be able to contribute to the archive.



14 May 2020

COVID-19 Update: Online sessions to replace the BSSH Annual Conference to be held w/c 24 August 2020.

It is envisaged that these will take place in the afternoon and evening (UK time). Full details will be posted in due course.

The next in-person conference is expected to take place at St Mary's University, Twickenham, the planned venue for 2020, and the dates have been confirmed as Thursday 26 and Friday 27 August 2021.


1 April 2020

BSSH Conference 2020 Postponed to August 2021

It is with regret that the BSSH Board has taken the decision to cancel the 2020 conference. 

We will still be holding the conference at St Mary's University, Twickenham, but will be delaying it by a year. The new dates have been confirmed as Thursday 26 and Friday 27 August 2021.
If you have already submitted abstracts for this year's conference, we very much hope that you will be able to join us in 2021, and we warmly invite you to re-submit your abstract (if you wish) when we open the Call for Papers in early 2021.
We are investigating the possibility of hosting some content or sessions online over the summer as a replacement for the conference. If you have any suggestions about what you would like to see or what technology we could use, do get in touch. We are open to all ideas at this stage.
We wish everyone a safe and healthy 2020 and look forward to getting together in 2021.

15 February 2020

British Library Symposium on Olympic/Paralympic History and Heritage

Organized by the British Library with the support of the British Society of Sports History, De Montfort University and the School of Advanced Studies

19th June 2020

The symposium will take place at the British Library, 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB for a full day, the specific timings to be announced in due course. Registration for speakers is free and lunch and refreshments, including a post-event reception, will be provided free of charge.

The event will have four panels over the day with a mixture of speakers from the history and heritage sectors, as well as attendees from the public, to a maximum of forty people. The BSSH will provide one panel (or equivalent number of people spread over the day) of BSSH members with the relevant experience to speak about their research on a specific Paralympic or Olympic sport with an emphasis on methodology and the role of archives in their research.

Members of the British Society of Sports History are invited to send a 200-word abstract of a 15-minute paper to Geoffrey Levett at by 3rd April 2020. Potential speakers who are not currently members of the Society can apply but must join the Society before the deadline has passed.

The BSSH welcomes applications from members of any cultural, national or academic background to contribute to the diversity of research presented at the symposium and strongly encourages women, BAME, disabled and LGBTQI academics to respond to this call for papers.


Download the full call for papers here.

9 February 2020

Funding awards!

The BSSH is delighted to announce the award of several grants to support the research and dissemination of sport history.


Postgraduate and ECR research grants
These have been awarded to Tanya Jones of the University of Texas at Austin (PGR), both Dan Feather of Liverpool John Moores University, and Verity Postlethwaite of De Montfort University (ECR). Details of their research will follow later in the year. 


Conference panels
Two groups of scholars are being supported to present BSSH panels at conferences: Professor Dave Day, Dr Sam Oldfield and Lydia Furse at the Leisure Studies Association Conference, and Dr Gary James, Dr Katie Taylor and Iain Adams at the North American Society for Sport History Annual Convention.


Small events funding
Four small event proposals have been awarded funding:
- Helena Byrne, to support a conference at the County Museum Dundalk
- Dr Geoff Levett, to support a conference on Olympic and Paralympic history and heritage at the British Library
- Lizzie Richmond, for an exhibition at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath
- Dr Wendy Toon, to offer bursaries to a Women in Sport Conference at the University of Worcester


Click here for details of how to apply for the next round of research grants.


10 January 2020

The Lord Aberdare Literary Prize for Sports History: call for submissions open!

The Lord Aberdare Literary Prize is awarded each year by the British Society of Sports History for the best book on any aspect of the history of sport in Britain or for the best book on any aspect of sports history written by a British author. The British Society of Sports History appoints a panel of three judges to consider submissions. The Prize will be awarded at the Society’s conference (to be held in Twickenham on 27th and 28th August 2020) and the winner will be invited to present a paper to the conference the following year (in 2021). The Society would welcome submission of any books published in 2019 that meet the criteria outlined above.


Please note that the book must have a 2019 publication. Reprints, new editions and paperback editions of books previously issued as hardbacks before 2019 are not eligible. Pre-released books with advance publication dates of 2020 that appeared in 2019 are ineligible until next year and will be held over. Edited collections and symposia do not qualify.


Should you wish to enter any books for the Aberdare prize this year, please confirm your intentions to the chair of the panel, Richard Boddie, by Please use ‘ABERDARE PRIZE SUBMISSION’ as the subject title of your email. You will receive a response with the names and postal details of the three members of the judging panel and should forward a copy of your nominated title to each of them by the deadline given below. The deadline for submissions is 30th April 20120 (late entries will not be considered).



6 November 2019

Winner of the Sport in History Undergraduate Essay Prize 2019!

The winner of the Sport in History Undergraduate Essay Prize for 2019 was Alex Riggs of the University of Nottingham for his ‘Part time athlete full time serious thinker’: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Arthur Ashe in the ‘long 1970s’. He was supervised by Dr Joe Merton, Lecturer in Twentieth Century History.

Alex said, ‘I really enjoyed researching this dissertation because it allowed me to combine my interest in sport with historical research and led me to fascinating insights about the evolution of both activism by African-American athletes after 1968 and the nature of African-American politics in the same period. I'm shocked and delighted to have won the prize, and would like to thank the British Society of Sports History judges, my supervisor Joe Merton for the nomination and his help throughout the year, as well as my friends and family for their support during the process.’

To read Alex's paper, click here.


Alex graduated from the University of Nottingham this summer


The judging panel would like to express their congratulations to Alex, and their thanks to all supervisors who submitted students’ work for the prize. Details of the 2020 prize will be publicised early next year and we hope to have another strong selection of papers to review.


5 November 2019

Sidelines, touchlines and hemlines: Women in Irish Sport (call for papers)

County Museum Dundalk, Jocelyn St, Dundalk, Co. Louth, Rep. Of Ireland.

Friday 28th February 2020


We invite paper submissions from across the disciplinary spectrum for a conference on Sidelines, touchlines and hemlines: Women in Irish Sport. This is an open themed conference. Submissions based on original research are welcomed from scholars of any disciplines related to Irish women in any aspect (including participation, administration, promotion or journalism) of sport or physical recreation in Ireland or overseas.


Keynote speakers (to-date):

Dr Katie Liston, Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute, Ulster University.


Submission types:

 Individual or joint presentations of 20-minutes.

  • Proposed panel of up to 90-minutes: a set of abstracts (3-4) submitted by a representative for a group examining a single topic or theme.
  • Workshop: proposals for practical 60-minute workshops on the theme of the conference. All workshops should involve a high level of interactivity which should be clearly demonstrated in the abstract.


Abstracts of 250 words, including:

 Full title: as it will appear in the conference programme

 Outline of the context; identification of core themes/argument of the paper and broad theoretical and/or methodological approach adopted as appropriate; significance of the research

Also include your preferred title/name; affiliation; email address and short biography of 50 words.


Abstract submission deadline: 15th January 2019


It is hoped that the final proceedings will form the basis of a special edition of the Studies in Arts and Humanities journal to continue the discussion women’s sport in Ireland and the need for further research in this area.


Abstracts must be emailed directly to


See for details.


31 October 2019

Lord Aberdare Literary Prize for 2018

The winner of the Lord Aberdare Literary Prize for 2018 (awarded 2019) was Dr Richard Mills, for his book The Politics of Football in Yugoslavia: Sport, Nationalism and the State. We look forward to having Dr Mills give a keynote lecture at our 2020 conference at St Mary's University, Twickenham.


Richard Mills


Shortlisted works (in alphabetical order):

Chris Bolsmann & Dilwyn Porter, English Gentlemen and World Soccer. Corinithians, Amateurism and the Global Game (Routledge, 2018).

Jeffrey Hill, Learie Constantine and Race Relations in Britain and the Empire (Bloomsbury, 2018).

Mike Huggins, Horse Racing and British Society in the Long Eighteenth Century (Boydell, 2018).

Benjamin Litherland, Wrestling in Britain, Sporting Entertainments, Celebrity and Audiences (Routledge, 2018). 

Adam McKie, Women at the Wicket.  A History of Women's Cricket in Interwar England (ACS Publications, 2018).

Richard Mills, The Politics of Football in Yugoslavia: Sport, Nationalism and the State (Tauris/Bloomsbury, 2018)

Mike O’Mahoney, Photography and Sport (Reaktion, 2018).



27 October 2019

BSSH ECR Research Grant

Sarah Hardstaff (@SarahHardstaff) received an ECR research grant to further her research project, 'Identity, Representation and Coming-of-Age in Football Fiction for Children'. Read all about it below!


Deepdale Stadium, home to Preston North End football team and the National Football Museum archives
Deepdale Stadium, home to Preston North End football team and the National Football Museum archives



Sarah writes:

Some years ago, before I became a researcher, I spent a day at the National Football Museum in Manchester. In the bookshop, I picked up Dan Lyndon’s biography of Walter Tull, one of the first black officers in the British Army and a professional footballer. I continued to look out for similar books throughout my PhD in children’s literature with the hope of one day carrying out a project on football books for young people.


Without wanting to perpetuate stereotypes about superstitious football fans, it really does feel like the stars have started to align for this project over the past few months. For example, I was lucky enough to see Dean Atta read from his new coming-of-age verse novel, The Black Flamingo, at the REIYL conference in Glasgow in August. The Black Flamingo references football in several poems, exploring issues of race, gender and sexuality in the beautiful game and society at large.


Then in September, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education released their findings that of all the children’s books published in 2018, only 7% featured a black or ethnic minority character (see ‘Reflecting Realities’: The equivalent figure for my growing collection of football books for children from the last twenty years is closer to 100%.  What might these books contribute to discussions about diversity, representation and identity in children’s literature?


Thanks to the BSSH’s support, I’m one step closer to answering this question. I was able to spend a day at the National Football Museum’s archives in Preston, receiving a warm welcome from Peter Holme and Dr Alex Jackson. The archive’s many treasures include novels, poetry collections, annuals, magazines, non-fiction and product tie-ins. From the broad range of media and genres I looked at, spanning the 1800s to the present day, emerged a surprisingly persistent set of storylines and themes in common, such as mystery and detective tropes, barriers to participation (injuries, social class, gender) and, increasingly in the later texts, football as a rags-to-riches profession.


Having the opportunity to explore these materials has helped give me a sense of the historical context and continuity of football books, as well as a greater appreciation of how much the footballing world and its culture have changed over the past twenty years, especially for female players and fans. This was an immensely valuable research trip and I’m now more excited than ever about the next steps of the project.