Johnes, Martin

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Johnes, Martin


Education: Cardiff University, B.A., Ph.D.


Office—Department of History, Swansea University, James Callaghan, Rm. 125, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, Wales. E-mail—[email protected].


During early career, held research positions at Oxford University and Cardiff University; St. Martin's College (now University of Cumbria), former lecturer; Swansea University, Swansea, Wales, history department faculty member, 2006—, and undergraduate admissions officer.


British Society of Sports History (former chair).


Lord Aberdare Literary Prize for best history book of 2002, British Society of Sports History, for Soccer and Society.


(With Iain McLean) Aberfan: Government and Disasters, Welsh Academic Press (Cardiff, Wales), 2000.

Soccer and Society: South Wales, 1900-1939, University of Wales Press (Cardiff, Wales), 2002.

A History of Sport in Wales, University of Wales Press (Cardiff, Wales), 2005.

(Editor, with Paul Darby and Gavin Mellor) Soccer and Disasters: International Perspectives, Routledge (New York, NY), 2005.

Member of editorial board, Journal of Sport History and Sport in History.


Martin Johnes is a historian whose interests include the history of sport and of modern-day Wales, his homeland. According to a faculty profile on the Swansea University Web site, "he is especially interested in questions of identity, be they based on nations, regions, towns, class or gender, and has examined such themes in publications on football, archery, pigeon racing and baseball." Johnes's first book, Aberfan: Government and Disasters, written with fellow history professor Iain McLean, received particular attention from critics who praised the authors' assessment of this important disaster in Welsh history; and his first solo effort, Soccer and Society: South Wales, 1900-1939, won the Lord Aberdare Literary Prize for best history book of 2002 from the British Society of Sports History. Johnes is also an author or editor of other sports works.

Aberfan is about the 1966 tragedy in which the Welsh mining village of the title was overwhelmed by a mudslide that killed 144 people, including 116 children. The catastrophe was heavily covered by the media, making it an early example of crisis voyeurism, but was also notable because of the British government's poor response to the victims' needs in the aftermath. This seemed somewhat ironic at the time because the government was led by Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his Labour Party, which supposedly favored the working classes. "Through this book," commented Tara Brabazon, on the McJournal Web site, "and their wide-ranging research, it becomes clear that the Labour Government failed to protect the citizens of a safe Labour seat." Brabazon went on to note that the authors explain that the Labour Party was struggling with a tight budget and a slim political majority, though this does not excuse their tepid response to the families of Aberfan. Meic Stephens, writing for, observed that there have been numerous accounts of the Aberfan disaster since it happened, "but this book looks set to being the most authoritative account of all."

Johnes combines his interest in Welsh history and sport in his next two books, Soccer and Society and A History of Sport in Wales. The aim of the former is to overcome the British notion that the Welsh are uninterested in soccer compared to their fascination with rugby. Going against arguments presented in Sport and the British: A Modern History, by Richard Holt, who detailed a number of geographical and societal reasons for soccer failing to gain Welsh adherents, Johnes insists that soccer is nearly as popular as rugby in Wales. Focusing on the years 1900 through 1939, he does so through "his careful reading of Welsh newspapers and his widening of the scope of the inquiry to include participation at the local and club levels in addition to the international arena, where Welsh rugby established itself as a metonym for the Welsh nation," according to P.F. McDevitt in Albion. McDevitt was disappointed that Johnes does not discuss how the role of women in the sport affected Welsh perception of the game of soccer, but concluded that the author "has written a first rate social and cultural history of a topic that has been underappreciated in the historical literature." contributor Russell Davies predicted that anyone who likes the game "will enjoy this excellent book."

Though surprisingly slim at 122 pages, A History of Sport in Wales contains "detailed research" and is "highly readable," according to Geoff Edwards on Here, Johnes provides insight into the history of Wales and how, during its transition in the nineteenth through early twentieth centuries from a rural to an urban society, the sporting culture there emerged as part of the phenomenon of industrialization. Edwards declared that this "commendable and highly enjoyable book deserves a wide public."



Albion, January 1, 2004, P.F. McDevitt, review of Soccer and Society: South Wales, 1900-1939, p. 715.

Sociology of Sport Journal, September 1, 2003, Alan Bairner, review of Soccer and Society, p. 291.

Times Higher Education Supplement, November 8, 2002, "Ardent Fan with Clear View of Play between Sport and Society," p. 29.

ONLINE, (May 5, 2008), Meic Stephens, review of Aberfan: Government and Disasters; Russell Davies, review of Soccer and Society; Geoff Edwards, review of A History of Sport in Wales.

McJournal, (April 1, 2007), Tara Brabazon, "Black and Grey: Aberfan and the Sharing of Tragedy."

Swansea University Web site, (May 5, 2008), faculty profile.