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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great read with much original material, 23 Nov. 1999
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This review is from: Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914: A Social and Economic History (Sport in the Global Society) (Paperback)
This is a book that I really enjoyed writing. The period between 1790 and 1914 is a fascinating and very important time for British racing, a time when it gradually took the form which made it what it is today. When I began the book I thought that racing in Victorian times was only for the wealhy and for ordinary working men, and that it was opposed by middle class society. It soon became clear that much of British society was interested in racing, went to race meetings, or bet on horses with credit or street bookmakers, and that many of the middle classes were great supporters.
I had already heard about the past of famous courses like Newmarket, Epsom or Ascot; about Classic winners like St Simon, Ormonde, Gladiateur or West Australians; or champion jockeys like Fred Archer and Nat Flatman. This book is not about them, but about the ordinary people of racing, and the great bulk of the British population who gave racing their support. It looks at the meaning of racing to the aristocracy and in middle and working-class life and culture. The book also explores the life, vitality and excitements of the course itself, with its prostitutes, pickpockets and policemen, the bookmakers and bettors, the grandstands and drinking booths, the consumption of food and drink.
There was so much opposition to racing from a minority of reformists that one might have thought racing could never survive. But it was mainly rhetoric. Organisations like the National Anti-gambling League failed almost totally to damage racing. Research turned up a number of real surprises. Racing turned out to be commercialised from much earlier on than I had thought. Racing owed far more to the expansion of the telegraph system and the popular press than the Victorian railway system. The Jockey Club, which I had thought had always been the ruling body, turned out to have little power outside Newmarket and a few other elite courses like Epsom until the 1860s.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 10 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914: A Social and Economic History (Sport in the Global Society) (Paperback)
Such a fascinating and enjoyable read, this book should be read with one of the author's other works, covering a later period of British society. I can imagine the effort which went into compiling this, and the author deserves full marks for penning such a unique and intriging read. In looking at the cultural background behind the changes in horseracing over this time period, the author adds a layer which is not found in other books on horse racing history.
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