Light, Rob (2013) Ordinary working men...transformed into giants on the rugby field': Individual and Collective Memory in Oral Histories of Rugby League. International Journal of the History of Sport, 30 (1). pp. 65-82. ISSN 0952-3367

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Abstract

As a sport that partly owes its existence to the issue of ‘broken time’, the working life of professional players outside the game is a highly symbolic issue in rugby league. In England financial reality meant that until the 1990s most players at professional level had to combine their career with full time employment away from the sport, often in the communities they represented on the field. To many this helped create a strong communal bond between those who played and watched rugby league and this perception has become a key cultural narrative in the sport’s ‘collective’ memory. This article uses individual narratives from oral history interviews which relate to the working life of professional players outside rugby league to examine the contention advanced by the sociologist Maurice Halbwachs and others that recollections of personal experience are always shaped to fit within the accepted public discourse. A wide range of personal testimonies are considered in order to illustrate how far, as some oral historians have argued, individuals are able to reflect upon the significance of shared experiences in ways which offer alternative perspectives to dominant cultural scripts.

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