do not mention the war

Sport in History

In Academia, Britain, Germany, History on January 20, 2012 at 13:23

Dilemma for young Historians of Sport

A generation of aspiring sports historians are facing a dilemma: on the one hand, the discipline has been recognized by the wider scientific community and as Dilwyn Porter has pointed out: it has arrived and is ‘taking itself seriously’. (Porter, 2011) No longer will writers about sports be considered as ‘fans with typewriters’. The amount of literature that has been published over the last three decades or so is vast, so much so that it presents an almost insurmountable task to grasp the whole width and depth of the literature. Douglas Booth, whose work The Field: Truth and Fiction in Sport History pointed out that the discipline had made a ‘so-called “cultural turn”’ in order to lay bare ‘its multidimensionality, and its relationship to the wider context of discourse.’ (Booth, 2005)

On the other hand, the academic sector is facing a troubled time, to say the least. British universities face severe cuts over the next few years. These could influence the numbers of students that are in a position to enrol for university in the first place as it will mean to face up to £20000 and more debt after three years at university for a degree. If one considers to aim for higher academic laurels, even deeper pockets are required. Something many cannot afford in the current economic climate.


German universities are not better off, either. Although free of charge, the teaching has become impossible as the number of students has increased over the last years, overcrowding lecture theatres and seminars. Thus, the quality has taken a downward turn. The Bologna reform that intended to scrap the old and traditional degrees of Magister and Ingenieur and replace them with the BA and MA has failed spectacularly as many industry sectors who demanded a change in the first place, don’t know how and where to place graduates with a BA in, say, architecture.

On top of that the working conditions of the teachers and researchers have become similar to that of slaves. With the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz, post docs and more senior research fellows below the position of professors can be employed by universities for a limited time, for certain projects and these people depend on the mercy of the direction of the universities and the success of their projects to have their contracts renewed. The institutions are free to do so up to twelve years, to renew contracts on a year-to-year basis, thus keeping their research personnel on their toes. It is therefore almost impossible to plan ahead for those already within academia. Even worse for those trying to get in as the competition for the few places on the gravy train that is academia is becoming harder and more difficult. Thus the field might suffer as students will decide against the ivory tower and a career within higher education.

  1. Dilwyn Porter: Sports History and Modern British History. In: Sport in History, Vol. 31, No. 2, June 2011, pp. 180-196
  2. Douglas Booth: The Field: Truth and Fiction in Sport History. London: Routledge, 2005, p. 18-19

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