Sports History Society launched after two-day conference

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 3 (May/Jun 2005), Letters, News, Volume 13

A new society dedicated to the study of sports history was launched at a highly successful conference in Dublin in February. The sports history conference, which was hosted by the Humanities Institute of Ireland at University College, Dublin, on 18 and 19 February 2005, was the first such venture to be held in the Republic of Ireland. The central ambition of the conference was to highlight the importance of sport in Irish history and to foster research in the area.
Sport is central to the lives of Irish people and an important part of modern Irish society. Nevertheless, sports history remains relatively unacknowledged in modern Irish historiography. The writing of sports history, however, is highly developed in Britain, the United States and continental Europe. Accordingly, Professor Dick Holt, who has pioneered the writing of sports history in Britain and in France, was invited to address the conference. He chronicled the development of the study of sports history across the last five decades, signalled the seminal texts that have emerged from this process and outlined possible areas that Irish historians might address in the coming years.
In all, twenty papers were delivered across two days. The speakers—who included Vincent Comerford (NUI, Maynooth), Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin (UCD), Fearghal McGarry (QUB), Brian Hanley (NUI, Maynooth), Angie Gleason (TCD), Mike Cronin (Boston College), Neal Garnham (University of Ulster) and Philip Dine (NUI, Galway)—presented papers on subjects as diverse as ‘The failure to suppress blood sports in Victorian Ireland’, ‘Polo in County Westmeath in the nineteenth century’, ‘French writers and Irish rugby’, and ‘The cycling craze in Victorian Ireland’. Also addressed was the role of sport in Irish society before the foundation of the associations that dominate the modern sporting world. Angie Gleeson’s ‘Injury and penalty in early Irish sport’ and Maighréad Ní Mhurchada’s ‘Sport in North Dublin in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century’ demonstrated that sport has been at the centre of Irish life for more than a millennium.
The new society, Sports History Ireland, was formally launched by William Murphy and Paul Rouse. It will provide an ongoing forum for the discussion, encouragement and promotion of sports history in Ireland. The collected papers of the conference will be published in the coming months. The society will also be launching a website, which will include a database of sources in Irish sporting history. A key ambition of the society is to establish a network of local historians across Ireland who are interested in working in sports history.

Enquiries: William Murphy and Paul Rouse, shiconference@hotmail.com.

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