- Mapping Sport History and the History of Sport in Europe
This collection, organized by Christopher Young, Anke Hilbrenner, and Alan Tomlinson and stretching over two issues of the Journal of Sport History, provides important surveys of the state of the field in Europe. The editors recruited an impressive corps of scholars to survey scholarship of sport, including Andrew McFarland for Spain, Britta Lenz for Poland, Matthias Marschik for Austria, Niels Kayser Nielsen and John Bale for Norden (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland), Stefan Rohdewald for Yugoslavia (and successor states), Simon Martin for Italy, Stefan Zwicker for the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic (and the former Czechoslovakia), and Ekaterina Emeliantseva for Russia. These historiographies grew out of two collaborative endeavors to survey modern European sport, one centered in Britain and the other based in Germany. These scholarly collectives have already produced important work on Great Britain, France, and Germany, including an extensive German survey that appeared in a 2009 issue of German History and an Anglo-French historiography that appeared in a 2010 issue of the Journal of Sport History.1
In their introduction, Young, Hilbrenner, and Tomlinson declare that the absence of a usable historiography of European sport represents a “glaring hole” that threatens to suck the field into oblivion.2 These contributions, in tandem with the aforementioned works [End Page 397] on Britain, France, and Germany, and in combination with several chapters in the recent Routledge Companion to Sport History (2009), have plugged this gap in the defense of historical studies of sport and perhaps laid a foundation for a counter-attack in the seemingly never-ending game to make certain that the scholarly analysis of sport finds a home on the hallowed turf of “legitimate” history.3 In lapsing into a football metaphor, however, I have sadly already violated the editors’ admonition to avoid soccer ruminations—sound advice that they propose to young scholars in search of subjects that have not been overexposed.4
The editors’ introduction presents some other contentions that at first glance seem quite surprising. They contend that European sport has been too bedazzled by the overwhelming gravitational force of the nation-state in the modern West and counsel historians to explore “below and beyond the nation.”5 On first reading, that particular warning, appearing in a forum focused on European history during the “long twentieth century”— the zenith of modern nationalism—seems bizarre. Though critics have long scored Europe for manufacturing too much nationalism during the modern epoch, can scholars really pay too much attention to the nation in the very region that invented the concept during the era that marked the halcyon days of the nation-state? Given that the two historians whom many sport scholars most frequently invoke to justify their studies as mainstream history are E.J. Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson, excavators first and foremost of the nation, the claim that students of sport-related issues have spent too much time on nations and nationalism represents a profound irony, particularly in a collection that uses the nation-state as its central organizing device.6
The North American scholar Colin Howell has consistently contended in his non-European (though Western) sport histories that scholars should pay more attention to borders, margins, provinces, and peripheries while resisting the tendency to take heart-lands, centers, metropolises, and cores as the sole objects of historical discourse. Young, Hilbrenner, and Tomlinson stake the same claim, lamenting the lack of local, regional, and transnational studies of European sport, particularly the absence of a comparative, pan-European historical survey. The editors contend that the absence of such studies handicaps the potential of scholars of European sport to contribute to the new interest in comparative European histories emerging in the broader discipline.7 While admitting the linguistic, thematic, and theoretical challenges posed by a prospective pan-European history are formidable, they insist that such a project is crucial to the maturation of the field.8
Having seized readers (or at least this particular reader and devoted scholar of the nation) by the throat with their broadside against the nation-centric bias of most investigators (a crime that I have committed on numerous occasions), Young, Hilbrenner...