Sport History in the Institute of Historical Research Library

The IHR library's collections focus mainly on primary sources, with some supplementary material including bibliographies and guides to sources, historiography and periodicals. Below are just a few examples covering sport history.

Bibliographies, Guides and Reference works




Elizabeth I entertained by a game of hand-ball 1591

In this compilation of sources from manuscripts, pamphlets and other records by the printer and antiquarian John Nichols, a game of 'hand-ball' during 'the Queen's Entertainment' at the Earl of Hertford's (at Elvetham, Hampshire) in 1591 is described:

"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)

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)

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)

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,  taken from Times Digital Archive 1785-1985)

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.

…The problem of national education is not sufficiently resolved in a state such as France by intellectual and moral culture; physical culture must add to it. Here is why the law made compulsory the education of gymnastics. But gymnastics is inseparable from military education; one is the goal, the other is the means; the problem which stands before the large and happy gathering of the Societies of Gymnastics; it is the problem of military education.

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

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.

Secondary works


Current copies of our journals are on open access 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.


For history theses across other universities, see History Online. See further information on theses holdings at the IHR library.

Electronic resources

A full list of our electronic resources is available at 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):

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