The ideal of the amateur competitor, playing the game for love and, unlike the professional, totally untainted by commerce, has become embedded in many accounts of the development of modern sport. It has proved influential not least because it has underpinned a pervasive impression of professionalism - and all that came with it - as a betrayal of innocence, a fall from sporting grace. In the essays collected here, amateurism, both as ideology and practice, is subject to critical and unsentimental scrutiny, effectively challenging the dominant narrative of more conventional histories of British sport.
Most modern sports, even those where professionalism developed rapidly, originated in an era when the gentlemanly amateur predominated, both in politics and society, as well as in the realm of sport. Enforcement of rules and conventions that embodied the amateur-elite ethos effectively limited opportunities for working-class competitors to ‘turn the world upside down’.
This book was previously published as a special issue of Sport in History.