Huggins, Mike

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Huggins, Mike


Education: Oxford University, B.A., Diploma in Reading Development; Council for National Academic Awards, M.A., Diploma in Management; University of Lancaster, Ph.D.; University of Cambridge, Diploma in Religious Studies; Nevilles Cross College, Certificate in Education.


Home—Windermere, Cumbria, England. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Cumbria, Ambleside, England, History and Geography Division, reader in history of popular culture; University of South Brittany, Lorient, France, visiting professor, fall, 2007; International Journal of the History of Sport, senior review editor, international editorial consultant.


British Society of Sports History (membership secretary).


Annual prize for best book, North American Society for Sport History, for Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914: A Social and Economic History, 2001; National Sporting Library, Middleburg, VA, fellowship, summer, 2008.


Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914: A Social and Economic History, Frank Cass (Portland, OR), 2000.

Horseracing and the British, 1919-39, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 2003.

The Teesside Seaside between the Wars: Redcar and Its Neighbours, 1919-1939, North East England History Institute (Durham, England), 2003.

(Editor, with J.A. Mangan) Disreputable Pleasures: Less Virtuous Victorians at Play, Frank Cass (New York, NY), 2004.

The Victorians and Sport, Hambledon & London (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Jack Williams) Sport and the English, 1918-1939, Routledge (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to various books, including the Berkshire Encyclopaedia of World Sport, D. Levinson and K. Christiansen, editors, Berkshire Publishing (Great Barrington, MA), 2005; and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005. Contributor to various periodicals, including History Today, Soccer History, International Journal of the History of Sport, Journal of Contemporary British History, and Women's History Review.


Mike Huggins has a diverse educational background, having studied at Oxford University, the University of Lancaster, Cambridge University, and Nevilles Cross College, and holding a number of diplomas in subjects such as management and religious studies as well as his standard undergraduate and graduate program degrees. A sports enthusiast, he serves on the faculty of the University of Cumbria, Ambleside, in the department of history, where he is a reader in the history of popular culture with a focus on leisure activities in Great Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and a particular interest in horse racing and dog racing through the ages. He has also spent time as a visiting professor at the University of South Brittany, in Lorient, France. In addition to his academic endeavors, he is a member of the British Society of Sports History, holding the position of membership secretary, and serves as both the senior review editor and the international editorial consultant for the International Journal of the History of Sport. Huggins has written extensively on the subject, contributing chapters to several books and articles to a number of periodicals, including History Today, Soccer History, International Journal of the History of Sport, Journal of Contemporary British History, and the Women's History Review. He is also the author or coauthor of several books of his own.

Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914: A Social and Economic History, for which Huggins won the annual prize for best book from the North American Society for Sport History in 2001, takes a historical look at the sport of horse racing, a leisure activity that has received very little attention overall by historians to date. In his book, Huggins addresses the social issues that arose in relation to the sport, many of which were a direct result of the way in which classes were forced to interact in many racing venues. He also looks at the economic and political issues, ranging from how betting procedures were handled to the role the jockey club played in the sport. Huggins is less concerned with the actual races performed, or the horses that participated in the races; instead he focuses on the structure of the sport and its influence on sporting activities overall. He begins with the rise in popularity of horse racing, determined in part by the steady increase in the number of races being held. From there he focuses more on the social aspects of the sport and the interactions between aficionados, and the role of racing in popular culture of the times. Huggins then analyzes the business aspects of horse racing, which began as a spectator sport held periodically in conjunction with fairs or other temporary entertainments, and eventually grew into a far more commercial enterprise with permanent destination tracks that enabled serious fans to go to the races regularly. John O'Hara, in a review for Sporting Traditions Online, found the book to be "grounded strongly in theory, which is explicit enough without ever interrupting the flow of the discussion. It is persuasive, particularly in its argument that horseracing offers a corrective for the interpretations of leisure culture offered by historians of other sports, especially in terms of their simplistic understandings of the middle-class groups." John K. Walton, writing for the Journal of Social History, remarked regarding the book's handling of the middle class and their gaming habits that "Huggins alerts us to a balance of power in which the ‘roughs’ often held better cards than the ‘respectables,’ and sets up an impressive potential agenda for further research. This is a very important (and enjoyable) book."

Horseracing and the British, 1919-39 serves almost as a companion to Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914, extending Huggins's look into the world of horse racing to the period between World War One and World War Two. Huggins describes the successful nature of horse racing as a business during this time, notable for its apparent lack of vulnerability to the economic ups and downs of the era. For Huggins, horse racing serves to provide a unique glimpse into the social relationships between the classes that engaged in the sport. However, it also enables him to look at other issues of the time through the lens of horse racing, not just addressing issues of culture but those of a more political and economic nature as well. Above all, horse racing can be closely linked to the class structure of the time and illustrated both symbolically and practically that Britain was far from being a democratic society, even in the early twentieth century. Peter J. Beck, in a review for History, commented favorably on the book as a whole, but did remark that "what is disappointing in an otherwise strong monograph is the limited use made of government records." Ultimately, Beck concluded that the book "challenges sports historians accustomed to the primacy of association football and cricket by championing horseracing's ‘powerful claim’ to be Britain's leading sport."

In The Victorians and Sport, Huggins looks at Victorian society through the micro lens of the sports in which they engaged. Politically and socially, it was a period of major change and upheaval, and sport often reflected this through the dichotomy of serving multiple and often contrary purposes. Huggins points out that sports could be both means of recreation and still important representations of the greatness of the nation. Likewise, Victorians could play their sports at an amateur level, and yet apply professional standards. Social class, also, played an important part in the nature of sport. James H. Mills, writing for Victorian Studies, praised the detailed nature of Huggins's work, but commented that "while the detail provided here is thick and absorbing, the analysis is thin and unsatisfying," and concluded that "analytical flimsiness is evident elsewhere in the sweeping assertions that litter the volume." James W. Martens, reviewing the book for the Historian, remarked that "Huggins's great strength in this book is to bring order to the detail. He shows us sport through social class, as well as its importance to the individual, the community, the region, the nation, and beyond, in a methodical and generally satisfying manner."



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May 1, 2004, A. Salter, review of Horseracing and the British, 1919-39, p. 1727.

Economic History Review, November 1, 2004, Joyce Kay, review of Horseracing and the British, 1919-39, p. 786.

Historian, September 22, 2006, James W. Martens, review of The Victorians and Sport, p. 631.

History, April, 2005, Peter J. Beck, review of Horseracing and the British, 1919-39, p. 313.

International History Review, September 1, 2006, Tony Collins, review of The Victorians and Sport, p. 618.

Journal of Contemporary History, July 1, 2001, "Starting from Your Own Past? The Serious Business of Leisure History," p. 517.

Journal of Social History, December 22, 2001, John K. Walton, review of Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914: A Social and Economic History, p. 487.

Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2000, review of Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914, p. 160; May 1, 2006, review of Disreputable Pleasures: Less Virtuous Victorians at Play.

Victorian Studies, January 1, 2007, James H. Mills, review of The Victorians and Sport, p. 335.


Sporting Traditions Online, (April 27, 2008), John O'Hara, review of Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914.