Sports historians and academics gather at the University of Glasgow

Published: 6 September 2012

Academics and sports history enthusiasts from all over the world are gathering at the University of Glasgow for the 30th Annual Conference of the British Society of Sports History

Academics and sports history enthusiasts from all over the world are gathering at the University of Glasgow for the 30th Annual Conference of the British Society of Sports History.

This prestigious event, which takes place on 7-8 September 2012, aims to cultivate research and interest in the history of sport and leisure. Fifty papers will be presented with speakers attending from European, American, South African, and Australian institutions. Many are respected academics,  some also have a background in professional sport, including former NFL player Professor Michael Oriard, who will be delivering the Sir Derek Birley Memorial Lecture on American Football Art as Sports History.

In this Olympic year there will also be a historical perspective on the importance of the Games, with Dr Kay Schiller of the University of Durham and Dr Christopher Young of the University of Cambridge delivering a keynote lecture on The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany.  

Over the two day event, which is expected to attract around 70 delegates, panels focusing  on topics as diverse as sport and politics, golf and commerce, football and the world and the role of fans in sport will take place. Three specialist panel discussions will also examine the historical aesthetics of boxing, the role of gender in shaping the unique culture of alpine climbing, and the lives of coaches whose approach to sport marked a great leap forwards in their respective fields.

Although much of the conference will deal with global sporting issues there is a significant Scottish flavour. Eilidh Macrae from the University of Glasgow will speak on mothers’ experiences of access to sport and physical fitness in post-war Scotland; Imogen Gibbon, curator at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, will explore aspects of the Playing for Scotland: the Making of Modern Sport’ exhibition currently being held at SNPG; and Andy Mitchell, former head of Communications at the Scottish Football Association will consider the relatively unknown story of Robert Smith, an early Scottish football international who emigrated to the American frontier.  

Dr Matthew McDowell, Associate Tutor in Scottish History at the University of Glasgow is one of the conference organisers and will be presenting a paper on Scottish football clubs’ tours of Scandinavia in the late 19th and early 20th century:

“Sport is in the news a great deal at present. We’re in the process of experiencing the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and the debate regarding their benefit, legacy and meaning remains as intense as ever. The dust has yet to settle on English football over John Terry’s racial abuse trial. Meanwhile, Scottish football, as well as sections of English football, is living through major financial crises, paralleling developments in the world of global finance. For better or worse, the conflicts inherent in sport reflect the tensions within society as a whole. The papers given during the British Society of Sports History’s annual conference will help to emphasise sport’s historic importance as a tool for measuring the pulse of society, whether on a regional, national, or global level. Other papers will help to build upon our knowledge of how sport has developed into the modern professionalised industry of today.This conference is an exciting opportunity for scholars and practitioners in a variety of fields to come together to discuss the history of sport.”

More information on the conference, including a full programme of events, can be found on the website:

First published: 6 September 2012