A (‘black’) historian using sociology to write a history of ‘black’ sport: A critical reflection

Paul Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Historians have often drawn on sources such as archival data, newspapers, census material and national survey data. These types of sources, however, have been criticised by various historians of sport for being unable to capture in detail the meaning and emotion of sport. These sources have also been criticised by some scholars of race and ethnicity, because social life at the ‘ground level’ for many of Britain’s black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities often exist beyond the reach of official census data. Against these kinds of problems, historians interested in mapping the social histories of BAME individuals and communities and the meaning sport holds for these groups are turning to alternative sources such as, data extrapolated via ethnographic techniques or via other qualitative methods. Techniques which have traditionally been associated with sociology.
Using my doctoral thesis, which was a historical and sociological examination of an East Midlands-based, African-Caribbean-founded football club c.1970 – 2010, the article discusses some of the benefits and challenges to writing critical social history, brought about by this methodological combination. Furthermore, against a general consensus which holds that researchers who possess insider status (i.e. they share membership to the same social groups as those who they are researching in gender, class, religion, ethnicity or ‘race’ terms) are best placed to understand the social realities of their participants, the article concludes by reflecting on some of the methodological and analytical benefits and limitations which accrued from my ‘possession’ of insider status.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-394
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Issue number3
Early online date28 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • history
  • sociology
  • insider-outsider
  • football
  • race
  • ethnography


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