Decolonisation and the Imperial Cricket Conference, 1947-1965: A Study in Transnational Commonwealth History?

Iyer, Usha (2013) Decolonisation and the Imperial Cricket Conference, 1947-1965: A Study in Transnational Commonwealth History? Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The game of cricket is often discussed as an enduring legacy of the British Empire. This dissertation examines the response of the Imperial Cricket Conference (ICC) as the official governing body of ‘international’ men’s cricket to developments related to decolonisation of the British Empire between 1947 and 1965. This was a period of intense political flux and paradigmatic shifts. This study draws on primary sources in the form of records of ICC and MCC meetings and newspaper archives, and a wide-ranging corpus of secondary sources on the history of cricket, history of the Commonwealth and transnational perspectives on history. It is the contention of this dissertation that these cricket archives have hitherto not been exploited as commentary on decolonisation or the Commonwealth.

Due attention is given to familiarising the reader with the political backdrop in the Empire and Commonwealth against which the ICC is studied. Primary source materials are used extensively to reconstruct and scrutinise major ‘off-field’ developments that affected the ICC in this period. This enables the dissertation to bring together the political Commonwealth, the non-governmental Commonwealth and the ICC for a comparative study. Using this synthesis as a framework, it analyses the ICC’s response to decolonisation. The dissertation also introduces literature on transnational perspectives on history and assesses the Commonwealth of Nations—of which the ICC was an important part—from this perspective. The last chapter concludes proceedings by highlighting the contribution of this dissertation to the wider body of historical knowledge.

Based on the evidence, the dissertation finds that cricket’s encounter with decolonisation was unhappy and protracted. The clash of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Commonwealth, much-chronicled in commentary on the political Commonwealth, was echoed in the world of cricket. The ICC is portrayed as one among a plethora of individuals, institutions and interest groups that participated in the process of decolonisation of the British Empire. Against the backdrop of the demise of the British Empire, the Imperial Cricket Conference could be seen a Commonwealth interest group that, as a transnational site, continuously grappled with conflict arising from lingering (real and imagined) ‘bonds’ of empire and assertion of British soft power on the one hand, and increasing assertion of national identity and rights by member states on the other. One can read the ICC as a microcosm of important debates within the Empire and the Commonwealth in this period. The ICC is a rich repository of information on decolonisation and cricket and decolonisation in cricket.

In spite of its long association with the Commonwealth, there has been little sustained engagement with cricket in Commonwealth studies. This dissertation attempts to address that gap by probing the historical role of cricket. It also offers fresh institutional and transnational perspectives in contrast to the dominant social history paradigm in the literature on cricket.

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