The Growth of an Urban Sporting Culture – Middlesbrough, c.1870-1914




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


This thesis is a study of the urban sporting culture of Middlesbrough between c.1870 and 1914, a period that witnessed an enormous expansion in participant and spectator sports. It examines the impact of industrialisation and urbanisation on the town’s sporting culture, and explains how its social and economic structures shaped the development of sporting organisations. In light of a population dominated by working class men, the thesis contextualises the growth of recreational football into the town’s most popular sport. Through a detailed examination of local newspapers and archival sources, this thesis reveals the depth and diversity of the town’s sporting culture. In particular, it illustrates the role of the middle classes in the development of clubs and the importance of class and social relations in determining an individual’s access to sport. As a consequence, the thesis will demonstrate both how the town’s working class populace were often excluded from the sporting culture, and the lack of sporting opportunities for women. Clubs were given further importance by the involvement of members of Middlesbrough’s elite, and allows for an exploration of the notion of elite withdrawal. The role played by employers in providing leisure opportunities for workers in the early twentieth century was also one of the most important developments in Middlesbrough’s sporting culture. Amateurism is also explored through the initial rejection of professional football, but the thesis will illustrate the increased popularity of the professional game during this period. In addition, in view of Middlesbrough’s migrant population, the extent of football’s role in forming and reinforcing identities will be examined. This thesis offers an original contribution to knowledge by examining the largely unexplored social and cultural history of Middlesbrough and the leisure habits of its people, as well as adding to existing studies of urban sport.



History, social history, urban history, sport, Middlesbrough



Research Institute