From the prize-winning author of Flat Racing and British Society 1780-1914, this is the first book to provide a detailed consideration of the history of racing in British culture and society and to explore the cultural world of racing during the inter-war years. It breaks new ground by showing how racing's pleasures were enjoyed even by the supposedly respectable middle classes, and gave some working-class groups hope and consolation during economically difficult times. Regular attendance and increased spending on betting were found across class and generation, and women too were keen participants. Enjoyed by the Royal Family and controlled by the Jockey Club and National Hunt Committee, racing's visible emphasis on rank and status helped defend hierarchy and gentlemanly amateurism, and provided support for more conservative British attitudes. The mass media provided a cumulative cultural validation of racing, helping define national and regional identity, and encouraging the affluent consumption of sporting experience and frank enjoyment of betting.
A record of the role of selected middle-class individuals across Europe who made notable contributions to the early evolution of modern sport and who saw success in modern sport as an expression of human qualities to be admired, applauded and encouraged. They viewed sport, sometimes self-interestedly but not always self-interestedly, as a medium of personal, collective and national virtue. It is the first general consideration of a selection of these innovatory pioneers and proselytisers who placed Europe at the forefront of major developments in contemporary world sport - now a phenomenon of global significance.