Ward, Paul (2011) The last bloke picked: does the mainstream need to play? In: What is the Future of Sport History in Academia?: a symposium, Wednesday 29th June 2011, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

The history of sport is considered an important site for understanding identities of place. This paper
reflects upon the chapter on sport in my book Britishness since 1870 (2004), which explored the
variety of national identities in the United Kingdom. The chapter argued that in their spare time,
people were better able to show allegiances of choice rather than those imposed by the state,
employers and other agencies. The chapter considered sports that helped formulate a sense of unity
in the British as well as areas of division. Yet the chapter was not written of my own free will. As with
sport at school, I was made to do it. The publisher (Routledge) considered a chapter on sport
necessary to the book and I gave in. Now I ask, was it the right decision? Did the chapter add
significantly to my understanding of the way in which Britishness worked since the 1870s? Or could I
have forgotten my kit and refused to play ball? The paper considers the place of sport history in wider
discussions of British history and identity.

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