Sport History Collections

Find out more about Sport History Collections in the IHR Wohl Library. We collect historical sources and guides to finding and using sources. This page shows some examples covering the history of sport.


The IHR library's collections focus mainly on primary sources, alongside bibliographies and guides to sources, historiography and periodicals. Below are some examples covering sport history. The first section focuses on secondary works, and the second section gives some examples from the primary sources in the collection.

Highlights from the Collections: Secondary Works

Bibliographies, Guides and Reference Works

Examples include:

Secondary Works


Current copies of our journals are on open shelves in the library, and back issues can be ordered from the stack. Many are also available online within the building via the links on the catalogue entry. BBIH and JSTOR are examples of the online databases that can be used to locate journal articles.

Online Resources

A full list of our online resources is available. Below are a few examples of resources that could be useful for this subject (most are available onsite in the IHR or via subscription only):

Further Help

Contact us if you would like help on finding or using our collections, or if you have any comments or suggestions about the content of this guide. We are happy to help.

You can also book a tour or training session.

Examples from Sources

Edward III's Proclamation banning football in 1363

There are numerous references to football and other sports being banned in the medieval period, this proclamation of Edward III in 1363 comes from the records of the Tower of London, compiled amongst other sources in Rymer's Foedera:

"Whereas the people of our realm, both rich and poor, were accustomed formerly to practice archery... and now skill in the use of the bow having fallen out of favour, our subjects give themselves up to the throwing of stones, wood and iron; and some to handball [pilam manualem] and football [pedivam] and hockey [bacularem]; and others to coursing and cockfights... whereby our realm.. will soon be void of archers... Moreover we ordain that you prohibit under penalty of imprisonment everyone from such stone, wood and iron throwing; handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cock-fighting; or other such idle games".

Rymer, Thomas, Fœdera : conventiones, litteræ, et cujuscunque generis acta publica, inter reges Angliæ et alios quosuis imperatores, reges, pontifices, principes, vel communitates... , London 1830, Vol. III Pars II p.704)

Elizabeth I entertained by a game of hand-ball 1591

"The same day after dinner, about three of the clocke, ten of the Earle of Hertford's servants, all Somersetshire men, in a square greene court, before her Majesties windowe, did hang up lines, squaring out the form of a tennis-court, and making a crosse line in the middle. In this square they (being stript out of their dublets) played, five to five, with the hand-ball, at bord and cord (as they tearme it) to so great liking of her Highnes, that she graciously deyned to beholde their pastime more than an houre and a halfe."

John Nichols (1788-1823), The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth  (1823 edition, Vol. 3, p.117)

Benjamin Franklin swimming in the Thames (c.1725)

"He had heard by some means or other of my Swimming from Chelsey to Blackfryars, and of my teaching Wygate and another young Man to swim in a few Hours."

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Yale, 1964)

Strutt's The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, 1801

The engraver and antiquary, Joseph Strutt's work The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England was first published in 1801. It brings together a variety of sources, including engravings of illustrations, with a quirky commentary on sports and pastimes in Strutt's time as well as his research on its history. As well as sport, it also describes games and various forms of entertainment.

Joseph Strutt (1749-1802), Glig-gamena angel-deod : Or, The sports and pastimes of the people of England, London 1810.

Jules Ferry's speech on gymnastics education in France, 1882

"…Le problème de l’éducation nationale n’est pas suffisamment résolu dans un pays comme la France par la culture intellectuelle et morale; la culture physique doit s’y ajouter. Voilà pourquoi la loi a rendu obligatoire l’enseignement de la gymnastique. Mais la gymnastique est inséparable de l’éducation militaire; celle-ci est le but, l’autre est le moyen; le problème que pose devant nous ce grand et heureux développement des sociétés de gymnastique, c’est un problème d’éducation militaire."

Jules Ferry, speech to the 80th Federal Conference of Gymnastics in Reims (3rd June 1882), quoted in Arnaud, Pierre. Les athlètes de la République : Gymnastique, sport et idéologie républicaine 1870/1914(Toulouse: Editions Privat, 1987), p. 144

The first ladies' Wimbledon Tennis championship in 1884

The first championship for ladies at the All England Lawn Tennis club began on 17th July 1884. The Times reported that the "attendance was very large and the courts were in good order". In the final on Monday 21st, Maud Watson beat her sister Lilian by two sets to one.

(Opening match: The Times, Thursday, Jul 17, 1884; pg. 10; Issue 31188; col C; Final: The Times, Monday, Jul 21, 1884; pg. 8; Issue 31191; col C,  from The Times online 1785-1985)

Victor Klemperer's writing about the 1936 Berlin Olympics

"The Olympiad, which is now ending, is doubly repugnant to me.. the Jewess Helene Meyer won the fencing silver medal for Germany (I don't know which is more shameless, her participating as a German of the Third Reich, or the fact that her achievement is claimed for the Third Reich)... I find the Olympics so odious because they are not about sport - in this country I mean - but are an entirely political enterprise... The chanted slogans on the streets have been banned (for the duration of the Olympiad), Jew-baiting, bellicose sentiments, everything offensive has disappeared from the papers until the 16th of August".

from Chalmers, M. (transl./ed.) I shall bear witness: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1933-42, 1998 (pp.174-5)