Sandiford, Keith A. P.(Department of History at the University of Manitoba)
Journal of Sport History, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Winter, 1982)
Although sports crowds have obviously formed a vital element in the great ludic upheaval which the modem world has witnessed, social historians have generally neglected them. In an excellent monograph on Association football, however, Tony Mason recently devoted a substantial chapter to an analysis of early soccer crowds in Britain.1 He was particularly interested in their size, conduct, and social structure. He clearly proved that attendance at soccer matches spiralled dramatically after 1870, and concluded that this was due chiefly to increased participation by the working classes. He also suggested that, although there were instances of rowdyism, British soccer spectators were not disorderly, on the whole, during the period 1863-1915. The purpose of this essay, inspired by the conviction that a careful study of mass audiences can provide many useful insights into a society’s mores and character, is to examine Victorian cricket crowds in a similar fashion.