Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Introduction

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Introduction

Article excerpt

In the introduction to their ground-breaking collection of essays, Sport in Africa, published a quarter of a century ago, William Baker and James Mangan wrote that:

[S]ocial historians have an important story to tell: of the way in which Africans have lived and died, fought and loved, worked and played. Sport is a central but neglected part of that story. Today organized sport is developing rapidly throughout Africa; its antecedents, evolution, cultural and political significance need to be understood.1

Since that time, there has been an explosion in sports history, which has now come to be recognised as an academic discipline in its own right. Yet there is a sense that, until relatively recently, libraries and archives, especially in the older universities, have rather lagged behind and failed to collect as widely in this area as perhaps they should.2 The recent interest shown in acquiring material relating to, for example, the failed Cape Town bid to host the Olympic Games or South Africa's hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup indicates a welcome shiftin emphasis.

In 2011 SCOLMA addressed this growing area of scholarly interest by taking as the theme of its annual conference, Africa, Sport and the Archive, which was held at the The National Archives at Kew. We were delighted to welcome Professor James Mangan as our keynote speaker at this event, which attracted a wide range of papers, a selection of which is published in this issue of AR&D.

Re-reading the papers presented here, a number of key themes appear: the close connection (although often denied, usually by those with a vested interest) between sport and politics, as exemplified by Karl Magee's paper on the Commonwealth Games held at Edinburgh in 1986, or by Jonty Winch's fascinating account of the role cricket played in Cecil Rhodes's imperialist designs in late 19th century southern Africa; the role of sport as a means of empowerment or conflict resolution, as demonstrated by Holly Collison's paper; its equal importance in gender history, as shown by Michelle Sikes' paper, and not least the role the archive can play both in the preservation of documentary evidence and in determining both the possibilities and the boundaries of academic research in the field, as both David Easterbrook and Dean Allen make clear in their contributions. …

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