A Social History of Tennis in Britain
Routledge – 2015 – 306 pages
From its advent in the mid-late nineteenth century as a garden-party pastime to its development into a highly commercialised and professionalised high-performance sport, the history of tennis in Britain reflects important themes in Britain’s social history. In the first comprehensive and critical account of the history of tennis in Britain, Robert Lake explains how the game’s historical roots have shaped its contemporary structure, and how the history of tennis can tell us much about the history of wider British society.
Since its emergence as a spare-time diversion for landed elites, the dominant culture in British tennis has been one of amateurism and exclusion, with tennis sitting alongside cricket and golf as a vehicle for the reproduction of middle-class values throughout wider British society in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Consequently, the Lawn Tennis Association has been accused of a failure to promote inclusion or widen participation, despite steadfast efforts to develop talent and improve coaching practices and structures. Robert Lake examines these themes in the context of the global development of tennis and important processes of commercialisation and professional and social development that have shaped both tennis and wider society.
The social history of tennis in Britain is a microcosm of late-nineteenth and twentieth-century British social history: sustained class power and class conflict; struggles for female emancipation and racial integration; the decline of empire; and, Britain’s shifting relationship with America, continental Europe, and Commonwealth nations. This book is important and fascinating reading for anybody with an interest in the history of sport or British social history.
'At every stage, Lake manages to place what was going on in tennis in the wider context of social, cultural, political, and economic developments, and also makes links between tennis and other sports, especially in relation to themes such as commercialism and professionalism. We have waited a long time for a book such as this, and I am confident that Lake’s work will fill the gap in the historiography of British sport …'
Martin Polley, Director of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture, De Montfort University, UK
'A fascinating, comprehensive history of British tennis, providing a detailed analysis of tennis's place in, and influence on, wider British society while also examining the leading role Britain played in the development of the game world-wide.'
Marcus Hunt, MA Sport, Culture and Society
Introduction 1. ‘A highly Christian and beneficent pastime’: The Emergence of Lawn Tennis in Late-Nineteenth-Century Britain 2. Pat-Ball and Petticoats: Representations of Social Class and Gender in Early Lawn Tennis Playing Styles, Etiquette and Fashions 3. Social Aspiration, Social Exclusion and Socialites: Clubs, Tournaments and "Pot-Hunting" in Pre-War Lawn Tennis 4. The LTA’s Struggle for Legitimacy: Early Efforts in Talent Development, Coaching and the Retention of Amateurism 5. British Tennis as an Imperial Tool: International Competitions, Racial Stereotypes and Shifting British Authority 6. Reconciliation and Consolidation: Early Struggles for British Lawn Tennis in the Aftermath of War 7. ‘New people’ and ‘new energy’: Advances for Women and Children amidst British Decline 8. ‘Demand for the game was insatiable’: Interwar Developments in Club/Recreational Tennis 9. 'The Goddess' and 'The Monarch': Lenglen, Tilden and the 'Amateur Problem' in Lawn Tennis 10. Developments for Professional Coaches and the Early (Failed) Push for 'Open' Tournaments
Robert J. Lake is a faculty member in the Department of Sport Science at Douglas College, Canada. His research focuses chiefly on the history and sociology of tennis, particularly related to social class, gender, nationalism, social exclusion, coaching and talent development