Spanning the colonial campaigns of the Victorian age to the War on Terror after 9/11, this study explores the role sport was perceived to have played in the lives and work of military personnel, and examines how sporting language and imagery were deployed to shape and reconfigure civilian society’s understanding of conflict.
From 1850 onwards war reportage – complemented and reinforced by a glut of campaign histories, memoirs, novels and films – helped create an imagined community in which sporting attributes and qualities were employed to give meaning and order to the chaos and misery of warfare. This work explores the evolution of the Victorian notion that playing-field and battlefield were connected and then moves on to investigate the challenges this belief faced in the twentieth century, as combat became, initially, industrialised in the age of total warfare and, subsequently, professionalised in the post-nuclear world. Such a longitudinal study allows, for the first time, new light to be shed on the continuities and shifts in the way the ‘reality’ of war was captured in the British popular imagination.
Drawing together the disparate fields of sport and warfare, this book serves as a vital point of reference for anyone with an interest in the cultural, social or military history of modern Britain.
Table of Contents
1 Victoria’s small wars, 1837–1899: ‘Hunt, shoot, and fight’
2 The South African War, 1899–1902: ‘We are having a very enjoyable game’
3 The First World War: ‘A new and deadly game'
4 The Second World War: Winning in the ‘ashes of civilisation’
5 War in the nuclear age, 1945 to the present: ‘Top guns 1, mad dog 0’
Peter Donaldson is Senior Lecturer in modern British history at the University of Kent, UK.