history and politics

July 2011

192pp + 16pp plate section






'this rugby spellbound people'

Gwyn Prescott

"I knew immediately that I would enjoy Gwyn Prescott's account of how the game of rugby not only came to Cardiff but conquered it...The details are richly satisfying...The story is engrossing...First and foremost Prescott has written a history of Cardiff...If you have any nostalgia for those days when one eagerly crossed Westgate Street to get to a game this is the book for you."
Peter Stead, Morgannwg - The Journal of Glamorgan History (Vol. LV 2011)

"In his scrupulously researched, well written and admirably economical work...Gwyn Prescott has given [rugby in Wales] a history to be proud of."
Huw Richards, scrum.com

"It's a fascinating piece of research and a major contribution to the history of rugby, not just in Wales but generally."
Tony Collins, author of A Social History of English Rugby Union

"Prescott's excellent book is a reminder to historians of the value of a detailed study of one sport in one place"
Martin Johnes, International Journal of the History of Sport

"the most assiduous archival research and rigorous command of the skills of the social historian...a book that also has significant implications for the historiography of rugby..."
Sport in History (Volume 32, No. 3)

"If rugby is your thing...then get yourself a copy of Gwyn Prescott's account of the social, cultural and economical impact of rugby football on the people of South Wales...a detailed and fascinating study of the way in which rugby embedded itself in the fabric of Cardiff society and the villages and towns of South Wales, transforming itself from a fringe activity confined to the middle classes, to the the mass-participation sport it became in the twentieth-Century."

"Gwyn Prescott paints a meticulous picture of Welsh rugby's growth in Victorian Britain"
Rugby World

"By the 1890s rugby football was contributing to an expressive local, civic, even national consciousness: Cardiffians, who have that endearing habit of equating Cardiff with Wales, were talking of rugby as 'the national game' as early as 1879...Gwyn Prescott's study shows how rugby became a key component of the new urban culture that developed along with it...He traces, from an exploration of a wide array of hitherto unused primary resources, the emergence and organisation of a robust infrastructure of socially inclusive teams and clubs in inner, dockside and suburban Cardiff...the late, great Bleddyn Williams of Cardiff and Wales, a relative of the author's...would have enjoyed reading Gwyn Prescott's book. So will you."
Professor Gareth Williams, University of Glamorgan

"I believe the historians of sport...will find this book useful for two reasons. One, it provides a detailed account of how rugby participation in Cardiff differed from other parts of Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria. Most importantly, it contradicts the notion that Welsh rugby was not an amateur pursuit. Two, it is the first book of its kind to examine rugby football at the community level in South Wales and Cardiff."
Rob Owens, University of North Carolina at Greensboro [Sports Literature Association, USA]

In December 1905, The Irish Times dispatched a reporter to cover the All Blacks game in Cardiff. Only a little over thirty years earlier, apart from a few young middle-class blades who took exercise by occasionally playing with an oval ball, the game of rugby was barely known in the town. Yet following the historic Welsh victory over New Zealand, that Irish journalist memorably described the excited, good humoured and wildly enthusiastic crowds he witnessed that day in and around the Arms Park as "this rugby spellbound people." He went on to declare that the Welsh were "undoubtedly the best exponents of the game."
from the Introduction

In this, the first detailed and original historical study of rugby union  at a local level in Wales, Gwyn Prescott draws on previously unused sources to provide fresh insights into the origins and early years of the game in Wales.  It also throws new light both on the significance of Cardiff to Welsh rugby in the nineteenth century and on the importance of rugby in Cardiff.

At the grass roots, the game was dominated by neighbourhood clubs, largely involving working-class and lower middle-class players and administrators, rather than by institutional teams organised by social improvers. At the highest level of competition, an emphasis on civic pride meant that success on the field was more important than social exclusivity. The game was played and supported, therefore, by representatives of all classes within the town which led to rugby becoming the dominant sporting force in what was to become the capital city of Wales.

A native of Cardiff, Gwyn Prescott has been involved in rugby for most of his life as a player, administrator and historian. Educated at Cardiff High School, when he captained the Welsh Secondary Schools team in the 1960s, and Cambridge University, Gwyn was awarded an MPhil, on the history of rugby, at the University of Glamorgan. Gwyn recently completed a three-year period as Research Assistant for the International Rugby Board.

Also of interest

The Boxers of Wales
Aberdare & Pontypridd

The Boxers of Wales

The Swansea City Alphabet

When Pele
Broke Our Hearts


'call them to remembrance'