Sport, War and the British: 1850 to the Present, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Sport, War and the British

1850 to the Present, 1st Edition

By Peter Donaldson


224 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367340780
pub: 2020-03-31
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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, before moving 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


Chapter 1 ‘Hunt, shoot, and fight’: Victoria’s Small Wars, 1837-1899

Chapter 2 ‘We Are Having a Very Enjoyable Game’: Sport and the South African War, 1899-1902

Chapter 3 ‘A New and Deadly Game’: British Sporting Culture in the First World War

Chapter 4 Winning the ‘Ashes of Civilisation’: Sport and World War Two

Chapter 5 ‘Top Gun 1, Mad Dogs 0’: War in the Nuclear Age, 1945 to the Present


About the Author

Peter Donaldson is Senior Lecturer in modern British history at the University of Kent, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Sports History

The Routledge Research in Sports History series presents leading research in the development and historical significance of modern sport through a collection of historiographical, regional and thematic studies which span a variety of periods, sports and geographical areas. Showcasing ground-breaking, cross-disciplinary work from established and emerging sport historians, the series provides a crucial contribution to the wider study of sport and society. 

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
HISTORY / Military / General
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century