British Society of Sports History

Promoting the Study of the History of Sport

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Seminar Series

Seminars are currently on hold due to the ongoing limitations and restrictions relating to COVID-19.


We continue to publish interviews and podcasts - check them out at or on iTunes (search for 'Sport in History' for a full list of episodes). 


In ordinary times:

The BSSH hosts a series of Sport and Leisure History Seminars at the Institute of Historical Research in London. The seminars take place once a month during term time on Monday evenings, from 1800 - 1900 at the IHR, Senate House, Malet Street WC1E 7HU (Past and Present Room, N202 - 2nd Floor). The seminars are often followed with a convivial chat over a drink nearby – a great opportunity to spend some time with fellow sport history enthusiasts!

We also now publish the seminars as podcasts. If you are unable to attend, or wish to revisit the topics at any time, these podcasts are freely available via iTunes – search for ‘Sport in History’ and you will see all available episodes.


Previous papers:

Monday 2 December 2019: Kay Schiller, Durham University [cancelled due to industrial action at Durham University]

'The Fastest Jew in Germany: Alex Natan 1906-1971

This paper deals with the biography of the elite Jewish-German sprinter, sports writer and left-wing political activist Alex Natan, “the fastest Jew in Germany” (Alfred Flechtheim) during the 1920s. Hailing from an assimilated family of the Berlin Jewish-German middle class, Natan was for most of his active career a member of the bürgerlich sport movement, running for SC Charlottenburg Berlin. He achieved his greatest athletic success as a member of the club’s world-record equalling 4x100-Meter relay squad in 1929. In addition to Natan’s athletic achievements, the paper pays particular attention to his career as a left-wing sports journalist; his participation in the anti-Nazi resistance of civil servants in the Reich Vice Chancellery in 1933/34; his emigration to Britain in 1933; his four-year internment during World War II; the resumption of his journalistic career in the post-war period; and his support for the 1972 Munich Olympics. By focusing on his confrontations with Carl Diem and Karl Ritter von Halt, the paper also engages with Natan’s vocal opposition to the rehabilitation after 1945 of sport functionaries who had collaborated with the Nazi regime.



Monday 4 November 2019: Helena Byrne, British Library

'Where are we now?  A review of research on the history of women's soccer in Ireland'

This presentation is based on an article that was recently published in a special edition of Sport in History focused on women’s football. It is a common fact that women’s sport and leisure history, especially in male dominated spheres, and more specifically football, have been ignored by many academics. However, in recent years there have been major developments in digital technology that have changed the nature of the type of research that can be done. Access to tools to facilitate field research are relatively cheap and with the high volume of digitisation projects that have taken place over the last few years as well as the increasing number of born digital resources that have been published, there are new opportunities. In relation to women’s soccer in Ireland, the article asked the question – where are we now? The argument reviewed the current literature on this subject and outlined potential approaches for future research that include web archives, crowd sourcing, digitised newspapers and oral history.



Monday 7 October 2019: Raf Nicholson, Bournemouth University

'Women’s Sport Governance: Merger-Takeovers in the 1990s and beyond'

In 1993 the Sports Council’s new policy document, Women and Sport, recommended that all national governing bodies of sport ‘establish a single governing body’. Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, almost all women’s sports that were administered separately to their male counterparts therefore ‘merged’ with the men’s governing body: squash in 1989, football and athletics in 1992, lacrosse in 1996, and hockey and cricket in 1998. In practice, these mergers became ‘takeovers’, whereby female administrators were forced to cede governance of their sports to male-run bodies whose priority and focus remained men’s sport.

Work has been conducted on the impact of this process on individual sports, with cricket being a particular focus (Velija et al 2012, Nicholson 2019). Internationally, studies of similar amalgamations between men's and women's sporting organisations have found that such processes increase male control at the expense of female autonomy (Cox and Thompson 2003, Lovett and Lowry 1995, Stronach and Adair 2009). However, there has been no study which considers the impact of the Sports Council’s policy on the UK sporting landscape as a whole.

This paper begins that process, reviewing the mergers in the context of various sports and asking the key question: How does a government policy of forced integration of women’s and men’s sport affect those sports in practice?

Recent articles

  BSSH Sport & Leisure History Podcast #1 - Lydia Furse