- Manufacturing Masculinity: The Mangan Oeuvre. Global Reflections on J. A. Mangan’s Studies of Masculinity, Imperialism and Militarism ed. by Peter Horton
The influence of J. A. Mangan in the field of sport history, cultural history, and gender history is deftly acknowledged in this comprehensive volume. It acts as a fitting tribute to a scholar who has made such a significant contribution to the academy. In over five hundred pages, it highlights how Mangan’s work crossed geographical and theoretical boundaries, producing pathbreaking studies that have influenced numerous scholars and helped shape the study of sport history into a major academic discipline. In covering an eclectic range of topics such as imperialism, gender, masculinity, and the development of sport studies in Asia, the book’s editor, Peter Horton, has done an admirable job in bringing together a comprehensive set of essays that serve to illustrate Mangan’s influence on the discipline, the current state of the historiography, and potential areas for future development.
There are many strengths to this volume, and these are reflected in the accessible way in which the chapters are written. Each chapter elucidates the centrality of sport to the development of national consciousness and/or masculinity in a way that emphasizes an aspect that is often underrepresented in much of the dominant historiography of the twentieth century. Connections are made with imperialism and nation-building that clearly show how [End Page 121] sport can be used as a propaganda tool in an explicitly “public” setting for the construction of a specific “image” of a nation. This is exemplified in Jeffrey Richards’s chapter on the 1936 Berlin Olympics and in chapters on Japan by Keiko Ikeda and William W. Kelly. Colm Hickey’s second chapter on the role of elementary sport education in preparing young men in Britain to fight the Great War speaks to the role of sport in helping to develop citizens into fighters that were trained for the defense of their nation and their way of life. Hickey’s point that this dimension concerning the preparation for war has received scant attention in the historiography is well taken, although seems somewhat heavy-handed in its dismissal of Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War (1998). Indeed, Ferguson’s study of the Great War has been subject to numerous criticisms for its shortcomings. Challenges to his arguments and rebuttals to his seemingly apologetic views about empire and civilization are well documented. Thus, Hickey’s assertion that “[n]o serious historian would accept such a conclusion” when critiquing Ferguson’s much-refuted point that British soldiers in the Great War were “unsure of what they were fighting for” seems to sour the tone of what ultimately turns out to be an excellent chapter. As much as many choose to disagree with Ferguson, the suggestion that he is not a “serious historian” does, by implication and choice of words, put him in the same category as the reviled and discredited author David Irving. In this respect, while the temptation to attack the Ferguson thesis on the Great War is significant, a slightly more measured approach would certainly have struck a more favorable tone and created a much more positive first impression of what proves to be a very significant chapter in this volume.
The study of gender and of Mangan’s contribution to this area is surveyed in detail. Indeed, the study of masculinity has gained traction in recent decades, especially with the decline of heavy industry that had provided an outlet for the expression of masculinity. The work of John Tosh and numerous other scholars about the changing nature of masculine identity and the assertion of the American sociologist Mac An Ghaill that young men were experiencing a “crisis of masculinity” from the 1990s has provided fruitful ground for research. The volume contains one chapter about the impact of sport on the construction of female identity and femininity, examining the case of Japan. This seems to suggest that...