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A Social History of English Cricket (Aurum Sports Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Derek Birley
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £12.00
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Book Description

Acclaimed as a magisterial, classic work, A Social History of English Cricket is an encyclopaedic survey of the game, from its humble origins all the way to modern floodlit finishes. But it is also the story of English culture, mirrored in a sport that has always been a complex repository of our manners, hierarchies and politics. Derek Birley’s survey of the impact on cricket of two world wars, Empire and ‘the English caste system’, will, contends Ian Wooldridge, ‘teach an intelligent child of twelve more about their heritage than he or she will ever pick up at school.’ In just under 400 pages Birley takes us through a rich historical tapestry: how the game was snatched from rustic obscurity by gentlemanly gamblers; became the height of late eighteenth century metropolitan fashion; was turned into both symbol and synonym for British imperialism; and its more recent struggle to dislodge the discomforting social values preserved in the game from its imperial heyday. Superbly witty and humorous, peopled by larger-than-life characters from Denis Compton to Ian Botham, and wholly forswearing nostalgia, A Social History of English Cricket is a tour-de-force by one of the great writers on cricket.

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Modern cricket suffers from being perceived as exemplifying the aristocratic circles from which it originated. It is the history behind this image which this book attempts to unravel, as Derek Birley illustrates cricket's uncertain position today. He cleverly shows that central to this uncertainty is the ethos of competition underpinning modern ethics--an ethos within which cricket, having originated in a leisurely environment, fares badly.

In concentrating on the aristocratic origins of the sport and the developments of the industrial revolution, Birley elucidates the reasons for the disparities in popularity and etiquette of cricket and football. His research is impressive in scope, but its purpose is ultimately hindered by his inability to filter out unnecessary facts.

This is a pity, because there is much noteworthy historical material--appealing to historians and cricket lovers alike--in this weighty book. Yet the historical passages are a little clumsily integrated with cricketing developments and the conclusions are somewhat piecemeal, as if Birley still believes that the historian's role is to be an "objective observer" and present "the facts". This is a somewhat antiquated view, but it is commensurate with the subject matter and the hypocritical mores of the founders of the game--the old-style aristocrats who invented the spirit of cricket and with whom, it appears, Birley cannot help but identify himself. --Toby Green


'A masterpiece'

(Daily Mail)

'An exceptional example of profound research and wisdom, yet told with elegance, humour and warmth.'


'A profoundly researched, easily and stylishly written book, put together with a view to a shelf-life of a good half-century, and as a work of reference a fair way beyond that.'

(Simon Barnes The Times)

'A wonderful book, written with great self-depracating humour. A hugely rewarding read.'

(John Inverdale)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 872 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press; New Ed edition (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845137507
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845137502
  • ASIN: B0077FATIE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #241,528 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Read! 20 Sept. 2004
By A Customer
A fantastic book. As a cricket addict I can read about it all day but this book stands out. The author's chatty and lyrical style make it easy to read but the research and quantity of facts in the book is staggering. It's great to read about the non-cricketing side to personalities I've heard of and seen pictures of, but know little more. On the face if it this book should be a bit dry and hard work but believe me, it's not. It's refreshing to read a book that is not afraid to critise some of the legends of the game and bust a few myths particularly the roles of gentlemen and players.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very well balanced read 16 Nov. 2013
I have to admit that in the early stages of reading this book, I thought it was a bit heavyweight and stodgy and I didn't get into as quickly as many other reads. However, I am delighted that I stuck with it as it is a truly excellent and well-researched tome. The migration of cricket from its amateur roots, through the periods of mock amateurism, gents and players and into the professional era is well documented here - numerous insights, many of them with a subtly dry sense of humour overlaid on top of them, document the development of the game to what was current at the time that the book was written (1999).

The key word in the book's title is "social". This is not a history of the game per se, but of the social context of the game in the many different eras that it has passed through. The writer's ability to look at the social aspects of the game as if he were writing in the context of any particular age is superb.

Overall, this is a book that I would recommend, not just to cricket aficionados, but also to anyone with an interest in the social history of Britain over the past 4 centuries.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a masterpiece 9 Dec. 2000
By A Customer
This was the surprise winner of the 1999 Willian Hill Sports Book of the Year - only a surprise in that in that it is a scholarly, rigorous and well-referenced account of the evolution of English cricket through three centuries. It is also entertaining, witty, irreverent and beautifully written.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A great disappointment. 20 July 2015
By mr blue
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My hardback copy, purchased on Amazon Marketplace, is well produced and nice to hold.
The prose is clear and not difficult to read. The research has been meticulously done.
The illustrations are standard and add nothing to the text.
The title is a misnomer. This is not a social history of English cricket at at all. It is a history of first class cricket with some general history, which is rarely integrated into the text, tacked on from time to time. Village cricket, which should be the very essence of the book, is relegated to a short epilogue.
Equally bad, the author's leftist attitude permeates the text; amateurs bad, professionals good: MCC bad, everybody else, particularly Australians, good: the moneyed classes dense, the working classes astute. How it all grates.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cricket history classic 28 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a well-researched yet very readable account of the history of English cricket from its earliest years to the dawn of the 21st century. Birley takes us through the formation of some of the pillars of the sport; Hambledon, Lord’s, MCC, the County Championship; through to one-day cricket, Botham and Atherton. All are put into the context of the time, although Birley does seem to have a few axes to grind – he is very critical of the forces that he sees as holding cricket back throughout its history; MCC and the amateurs come under regular withering fire. More than anything, it’s very well-written and a pleasure to read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best cricket book I've read so far 6 Mar. 2005
Well-researched, this book starts at the very beginnings of English cricket 500 years ago and takes it all the way up to the end of the 20th century. It connects what's happening in the real social world with developments in cricket (which always lagged behind). My understanding of non-cricketing English social history has improved at the same time. An excellent read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 27 Jun. 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are interested in the history of Cricket or English society and also interested in the politics of the sport then this is your book.

It focuses very much on the eras before and just after the world wars (because that's when English cricket was at it's most interesting) and sadly it ends before the T20 revolution starts. Fingers crossed that there is a follow up released giving an insight into what the T20 era has done and might do for English cricket.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Whole Shilling 2 Jan. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A great read, in particular the latter years which are well remembered such as the Wardle exit, the Illingworth exit and the Boycott episodes at Yorkshire. The state of local league cricket is a true picture of the current situation of the game which can only continue to exist if volunteer coaches and supporters keep giving their all. Umpires and scorers, who have to do both sides overs are gold dust.
J & J at C C C in the Rhubarb Triangle
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