BA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Sport and British Society and Culture, c. 1837-1939

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST32281
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module examines the development of sport and leisure from 1837. Developing from leisure and free-time, this course will focus on how sport has been an active catalyst for historical change in British society and culture from 1837 to 1939. This will include an examination of how sport has been integral in shaping and mirroring class, gender and race in Britain. This is as well as not only analysing how British sport spread and developed to become intrinsic to the creation of national identity across the Four Nations, but also how other countries, particularly across the Empire, embraced British sports, adapting them with their own cultural contexts and nuances. Through visiting and examining local archives and museums, students will also gain a greater understanding of the interlocking relationship between sport and British politics on the one hand and sport and British media on the other.


Restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes (please check your programme structure for further details).


- Encourage students, through the history of sport, to develop nuanced understandings of how sport was a catalyst for change in nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain.

- Enable students to analyse how sport was integral to concepts of class, gender and race. 

- Enable students to examine how sport formed and shaped national identity and culture in the Four Nations and Empire.

- Facilitate connections for students regarding the relationship between sport and British politics and British media and sport.

- Introduce students to different approaches to the study of cultural and social British history through the study of sport and local related archives and museums.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able:

Knowledge and understanding

  • to explain why and how sport acted as a catalyst for change in British culture and society in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 
  • to assess how sport shaped concepts of race, class, gender and national identity.

Intellectual skills

  • To evaluate the relationship between sport and British culture and society.
  • To assess critically the role of sport as a catalyst for change.
  • Identify and evaluate new approaches to the study of sport.

Practical skills

  • Developing archival and museum research skills.
  • Research, planning and essay writing.
  • Developing primary and secondary sources analysis and evaluation skills.
  • Master online databases and internet resources appropriate to the module.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Present nuanced interpretations.
  • Produce independent research projects.
  • Work collaboratively as part of a team.
  • Critical thinking and analysis.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Critically analysing and evaluating primary and secondary texts
Group/team working
Ability to integrate interdisciplinary ideas from other subjects such as Media Studies and Government and Politics and the Languages. Formulating and delivering an argument in both written and oral forms.
Oral communication
Presentation Skills
Independent learning and research skills. Identifying, gathering and organising information and data and using it to develop coherent arguments.
In providing an insight into British journalism, politics, diplomacy and national identity, this course would also be of particular use to students with an interest in careers in politics, journalism, the civil service or similar fields.

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative

Weighting within unit (if summative)

Source Analysis



Research Essay



Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback on non- assessed activities


Written feedback on primary source analysis


One- to-one feedback (during consultations and office hours)


Recommended reading

Peter J. Beck, Scoring for Britain: International Football and International Politics, 1900-1939, (Routledge, 2013).

Raymond Boyle and Richard Haynes, Power Play: Sport, the Media and Popular Culture, (Edinburgh University Press, 2009).

Luke Harris, Britain and the Olympics Games, 1908-1920: Perspectives on Participation and Identity, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Pamela Horn, Pleasures and Past Times in Victorian Britain, (Sutton Publishing, 1999).

Richard Holt, Sport and the British: A Modern History, (Oxford University Press, 1990).

Tony Mason (ed.), Sport in Britain: A Social History, (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Carol A. Osborne and Fiona Skillen, Women in Sports History, (Routledge, 2011). 

David Rowe, Sport, Culture and the Media, (2nd ed.), (Open University Press, 2004).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Louise Clare Unit coordinator

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