Emma Griffin, historian

Winner of the Lord Aberdare Prize for Sports History in 2005

This study looks at the relationship between popular recreations and the spaces in which they took place, and in doing so it provides a history of how England enjoyed itself during the long eighteenth century.

Because the poor lacked land of their own, public spaces were needed for their sports and pastimes. Such recreations included: parish wakes and feasts; civic fairs and celebrations; football, cricket and other athletic sports; bull- and bear-baiting; and the annual celebrations of Shrove Tuesday and Guy Fawkes.

Three case studies form the core of this book, each looking at the recreations and spaces to be found in different types of settlement: first, the streets and squares of provincial market towns; then the diverse vacant spaces to be found in industrialising towns and villages of the west Midlands and West Riding of Yorkshire; and finally the village greens of rural England. Through a detailed examination of contemporary books, diaries and newspapers, and records in over forty archives, Dr Griffin addresses the questions of what spaces were used, and what was the interaction with those who used and controlled the land.

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Book cover