May 20 – June 10, 2023
Matthew Andrews, Department of History
The premise of this study abroad version of HIST 220 is that we can use the Olympic Games to learn, in particular, about British history, culture, and society.
London is the only city to host the Modern Olympic Games three times (1908, 1948, and 2012). We will immerse ourselves in the history of the city and these Games by touring sites that pertain to the Olympic Games and British sport, as well as sites that can help illuminate the major issue in 20th and early 21st century British history, more generally. For example, we will visit nearby Cambridge and explore one of the “birthplaces” of the ideology of amateurism and modern sport; we will visit the Imperial War museum to see the effects of that war on British society (there were significant effects on the Olympic Movement, as well); we will tour the neighborhood of Brixton and learn about immigration and the changing face of London and British society (a change very much reflected in Team Britain – the British Olympic Team).
A particular focus will be the history of the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park – the complex created for the London 2012 Games. Opinions about this complex differ. Some celebrate the park as an example of the promise of urban renewal – lauding the venue for transforming an urban “wasteland” into a family-friendly utopia. Critics have condemned the park as a “semi-privatized nightmare” and a “monument to social cleansing.” By visiting the site, listening to the story of the park provided by Blue Badge tour guides, talking to community members who live(d) in the neighborhood, and speaking with anti-Olympic Games activists, students will have the opportunity to form their own opinions about an issue that is not just particular to London, but one that continues to rear its head every four years as other cities construct their own Olympic centers.
Finally, students will be introduced to the craft of archival research. The records of the British Olympic Association (BOA) are housed at the national archives, East London University Branch. We will visit these archives and view documents (previously selected by the instructor) that provide insight into two of the major mid-century issues facing Britain and the BOA – the question of whether to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games due to Nazi aggression; and the debates over London hosting its second Olympiad in 1948 in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Students will also have time to explore other issues that interest them pertaining to British society and the Olympic Games.