16 May 2012
The Hull is a Boundary: on cricket, ships and empire
Tomorrow is the beginning of a few weeks of divided loyalties for me, as England take on the West Indies in the first summer series. In honour of the occasion I thought I'd post a nugget from a paper I've written for the Library's 'Sourcing Sport' event on 21st May.
That paper is on cricket in the Americas and while I was researching it a particular detail caught my eye, that is the insights British colonial shipping can give to the spread of the game. Two non-Americas examples are the earliest record of a game of cricket being played in India (Port of Cambay, 1721. Recorded in Downing (1737), 'A Compendious History of the Indian Wars' [Shelfmark: 800.c.16]) and Darwin's relatively well known Beagle voyage diary entry about cricket being played in New Zealand (December 1895, 'Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries visited during the Voyage of HMS Beagle Round the World' [Shelfmark: X.319/3182]).
Because of similar circumstances there was opportunity for the etching at the top of this piece to be made. It depicts a match between expatriate Britons and the crew of HMS Challenger on the Campo Grande, San Salvador, and is an example of cricket being spread into the informal British empire (as the expatriates and sailors were all there as a result of British investment in the building of a local tramway).
However, as interesting as the Campo Grande illustration is, the depiction of cricket being played on the Arctic ice (from William Parry's account of a voyage to chart the Northwest Passage) takes the award for 'most striking ground' - although it might also win 'worst wicket'. These references and others in the Library's collections attest to how much the spread of cricket owes to the enthusiasm of British sailors; they also represent a useful source to further question the relationship between sport and empire
There is a great deal the Library's collections can tell us about sport and society, as previous posts here and next week's 'Sourcing Sport' will show. As to the rest of what makes cricket special, hopefully Sammy, Strauss, et al will furnish that argument.