Promotion and Relegation: Class Barriers and Association Football in an English Mill Town





Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)




This thesis examines the impact of association football (also known as soccer) on class relations in nineteenth-century Preston, an English cotton mill town. Most scholars focus on the large industrial cities in the United Kingdom, such as Manchester and Birmingham. Although smaller, Preston‟s rapid metamorphosis from bucolic market town to industrialized urban center created the same social conflicts among the working, middle, and upper classes as found in large cities. I focused on this smaller area to better spotlight the divisive social atmosphere, recognize when social relations began to improve, and address possible causes. I argue that Preston‟s championship football club, Preston North End, played an integral role in reducing class barriers in the town. Preston‟s Guild Merchant, which is celebrated every twenty years, provides a unique barometer with which to gauge social change. Using a plethora of Guild Merchant programs and pamphlets, as well as nineteenth-century studies of Preston and local newspaper articles, I linked the improved social conditions to the rise of Preston North End. This thesis challenges the accepted notion that class relations improved because the working class enjoyed better labor conditions and life styles, and recognizes the unifying power of sports fandom.

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