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Popular Politics and Popular Culture in the Age of the Masses

Studies in Lancashire and the North West of England, 1880s to 1930s

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Jeffrey Hill

The book is a selection of essays from the author’s work since the early 1980s. It presents an analysis of political and cultural trends based upon a series of case studies drawn from the North West of England, covering mainly the years between the Third Reform Act (1884) and the outbreak of the Second World War. The region was a heavily industrialized one, seen by many as in the vanguard of changes that gave rise to what is often referred to as ‘modern’ society. In politics the emergence in North West England of a new labour consciousness is plainly evident, but so too is the survival and adaptation of older political allegiances, notably popular Toryism. The region is also renowned in cultural terms for the emergence of modern sport, examined here in relation to both association football and cricket. Keenly aware of the general political, social and cultural developments in Britain and elsewhere during these years, the author is also alert to their impact in particular localities. The theme of locality has been a recurring one in the author’s research, and the composition of this book reflects his changing approaches to it and to other, related issues of identity.
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Chapter Seven: Cricket and the Imperial Connection: Overseas Players in Lancashire in the Interwar Years

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← 162 | 163 → CHAPTER SEVEN

The global migration of sports talent in first-class cricket is now commonplace. Since the late 1960s England, with the most developed form of professional cricket, has become a magnet for star players from the world’s major cricket-playing countries. With the exception until recently of Yorkshire all the English county clubs have felt it necessary to include one or more such stars in their teams.1 This process, however, has not been without its critics. The importation of overseas sports talent has frequently been held responsible for the apparent decline of English test teams in international competition, particularly in the 1980s.2 Indeed, the problems of cricket have often become subsumed in the wider discourse of ‘decline’ that has been a characteristic feature of British national life in recent years. But what is often overlooked when such ideas are voiced is the fact that players from overseas – from various parts of the Commonwealth and, before that, the Empire – have long been a feature of the game in England. For example, a glance through the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack for the 1953 season reveals a total of 17 Commonwealth players employed by nine of the 17 county clubs, at least 10 of them occupying leading batting or bowling places.3 Not, admittedly, as great a number as were to figure in more recent seasons but a significant proportion none the less.

← 163 | 164 → This imperial connection in English cricket has a long, if not always very conspicuous, history....

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