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A Social History of English Cricket (Sports Classics) [Paperback]

Derek Birley
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.00
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Book Description

1 Aug 2013 Sports Classics

Winner of the William Hil Sports Book of the Year and acclaimed as a magesterial, 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. Sir Derek Birley's survey of the impact on cricket of two world wars, Empire and 'the English caste system', will, contends Ian Woolridge, 'teach an intelligent child of twelve more about their heritage than he or she will ever pick up at school'.

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 details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; PB Reissue edition (1 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781311765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781311769
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 258,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'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)

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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 Sep 2004
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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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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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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece 21 Feb 2000
By A Customer
This book has deservedly won the major literary sporting prizes of 1999. It is beautifully written, full of scholarly detail, and a classic in its field. It is funny, down-to-earth and lucid in its interweaving of social, political, literary and sporting events through the ages. It sparkles on every page. Do not be put off by the accurate but dry title - this is a book which delightfully brings the past to life.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down! 27 Jun 2000
By A Customer
I am a recent female convert to the game of cricket. I picked up this weighty tome with some trepidation and what I found was a book full of wit that was a joy to read. Not only do I understand more fully the game of cricket but it was a lesson joyfully embarked upon. I was given the book for Christmas and had finnished it before New Year. Thank you Sir Birley a wonderful read.
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars A Cricket Historian's Must Read 9 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
You have to love Cricket and understand the English to appreciate this book - if you do you'll find it both illuminating and amusing.
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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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok but a lot smaller size than the previous edition
I had the previous edition which was a lot larger in size than this which is a gift as a result the font is quite small and I would imagine could cause a bit of eye strain.
Published 8 months ago by KARL FODEN
4.0 out of 5 stars A very well balanced read
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. Read more
Published 9 months ago by T. G. Lee
3.0 out of 5 stars Howzat?
I stuck this out to the (very) bitter end. Much of the content was illuminating - a sort of insider view of the game, but axes had to be ground and the underlying 'political'... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Bel Ami
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
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. Read more
Published on 27 Jun 2011 by AlanReview
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Cricket Book
A must read for every cricket fan. A fascinating backdrop for the world's best sport, combining history with sport and intrigue. Well researched, very entertaining. Read more
Published on 10 May 2011 by Laura
5.0 out of 5 stars A great all-rounder
A Social History of English Cricket

This deeply absorbing volume proved to be a winner on several accounts. Read more
Published on 29 April 2009 by J. Bailey
2.0 out of 5 stars A left-wing assault on cricket's history
It may be unfashionable to say so but I'm afraid I derived little enjoyment from this book, or from the very similar "The Willow Wand" by the same author. Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2001 by G. J. Llewellyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable for student and enthusiast
This book is quite breathtaking in ambition and scope - and more remarkably still, it succeeds admirably. Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2001 by Mr. M. J. Hulme
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