106. Cricket

Friday, July 26th, 2019

Welcome to Histories of the Unexpected where we demonstrate how everything has a history and how those histories link together in unexpected ways.

For this episode let us join the Ian Botham of cricket history, Dr Sam Willis, and the collector of histories ashes, Professor James Daybell, as they bowl a googly and bring us the unexpected history of cricket!

James and Sam demonstrate that cricket is more than just a sport, as they explore the different ways the game can be used to delve into the past. Whether it is as a window into the social and cultural dynamics of a certain society or nation, during a particular time, or how colonial rule and empire shaped attitudes, to racial segregation and boundaries, the sport can highlight how national attitudes to the game itself defined class divisions, economic status, recreational access, organisational and structural transformations, localism and global expansion, laws and regulations, professionalism, the growth of the press, and sandwiches! Cricket can help us to understand how gender and patriarchal traditions and dominance were evident during the 1970s and even how a perceived ideal of ‘virtuous English values’ and ideas of ‘foul play’ defined perceptions of Germany during World War II, or how the game was manipulated and gave ideological significance to status, superiority and subjection in the sugar plantations on Barbados. By opening up an historical dialogue which moves beyond matches, famous players, and the taking up of the sport, cricket can allow us to see far beyond the game; it really isn’t (just) cricket you know.

There’s no ball tampering here as out two seasoned umpires take us through the batting order, from the accelerated growth of cricket and Georgian betting habits of the eighteenth century to 1979 and the first women’s test match, between England and Australia, to be played at Lords, from World War II and the ashes of civilisation to the advent of cricket journalism and its rapid growth at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and from Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacs, founded in 1864, to the sugar plantations of Barbados and slavery in the West Indies, its all out for the innings in this sporting unexpected history.

With golden ducks flying, and shouts of LBW, our two superstar bowlers discover that this unexpected history is actually all about; empire and colonialism, export and education, boundaries and apartheid, race and gender, attitudes and nationality, disruption and resourcefulness, travel and exploration, collectibility and memorabilia, subversion and legacy.


More Podcasts

Maggots Rehatched!

24, 11, 2020 - In this BONUS episode, the Histories of the Unexpected duo, James and Sam, re-hatch the .... Read More

Episode 16: The Pen

3, 1, 2017 - Welcome to Histories of the Unexpected where you will discover the history of things you did .... Read More


15, 6, 2023 - In this latest episode, the Unexpected duo, Professor James Daybell and Dr Sam Willis explore .... Read More

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up to date with Histories of the Unexpected