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4.3 out of 5 stars17
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 16 November 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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on 20 September 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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on 9 December 2000
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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on 28 April 2014
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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on 6 March 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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on 27 June 2011
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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on 2 January 2014
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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on 21 February 2000
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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on 27 June 2000
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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on 29 April 2009
A Social History of English Cricket

This deeply absorbing volume proved to be a winner on several accounts. First the price was more than reasonable, secondly The World of Books Ltd were as good as their word in their description of the book's condition and the delivery was super speedy. The book has a wealth of information that ties together very skilfully the social mores of the early days of what might be termed some loose form of organised cricket and the obsession with high-stakes gambling in England among the effete aristocracy of the early years of the eighteenth century, with the development of the game almost to the present day. This will be a useful guide to how the game was once played for those that come later. An excellent, well-researched book.
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