A Level Playing Field
CLARE BALDING explores how the British shaped sport and sport shaped Britain. If the French had played cricket, would they have prevented the revolution? Clare visits Broadhalfpenny Down in Hampshire, the original home of Hambledon Cricket Club, that's widely regarded as the birthplace of modern cricket. The origins of the game go back to the sixteenth century, it was a farm game, played on landed estates. Highly competitive aristocratic landowners, with money and time to spend, would employ men on their estates who were the best cricketers, so they could use them on their team. Cricket brought together landowners and their agricultural workers, they played together on the same pitch, in the same team - on a level playing field. Professor Richard Holt of the International Centre for Sports history and culture at De Montfort University explains that while we shouldn't confuse social mixing with social harmony, this picture of cricket as a village game, played on summer afternoon, everyone knowing their place on the field, has become the image of Englishness.
Producer: Sara Conkey.