O'Keefe, Dennis (2011) Cricket and Church in Calderdale: An Example of a Dualistic Approach in Interpreting Social History. In: What is the Future of Sport History in Academia?: a symposium, Wednesday 29th June 2011, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

An important task for this symposium is to debate how research into sport can be more closely
integrated into mainstream social history. This paper seeks to describe an approach which may help
to address one aspect of this question. It will endeavour to do this through an examination of the
relationship between cricket and churches, but other sports and other sources of sports from public
houses to companies and from schools to villages and beyond could be similarly evaluated.
Between 1860 and the early 1920s, in the industrial area of what is now Calderdale in West
Yorkshire, religious organisations emerged as the main source of cricket. This, in 1850, had by no
means been a foregone conclusion. In investigating the significance of this development, the position,
ambitions and difficulties of the churches, chapels and Sunday schools have, wherever possible,
been given equal emphasis to those of their cricketing offspring. Primary sources from both sides
have been examined, sometimes in parallel. And they have been viewed equally from the perspective
of the wider social, economic and political context in which they existed. Churches and cricket clubs
were both organisations in which people made sense of their lives and helped to shape their
This methodology provides an additional dimension for the appreciation of sport as a player on a
broader social field and one which can help to provide answers to developments upon it. For
example, church cricket clubs tended to loosen their ties with their parent churches or Sunday schools
and, sooner or later, part company with them. Towards the end of the 1920s in Calderdale both
church cricket clubs and churches were in decline. An appreciation of the reasons for the former may
help us to understand the latter.

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