Ph.D. St Antony's College, Oxford, 2001
M.St. St Antony's College, Oxford, 1998
B.A. St Edmund Hall, Oxford, 1997
University of Guelph, 2002-
modern German history
history of sport
history of communism
20th century European history
Dreams and Songs To Sing: A Social History of Liverpool Football Club
Few pursuits in the modern world are more popular than football. Like other global products, from coffee and sugar to popular music, it encourages histories of cultural exchange rooted in ordinary experience. One of the most successful clubs in world football, Liverpool Football Club's international appeal is based on a powerful set of symbols, from the atmosphere at its Anfield stadium to the fight for justice that followed the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died. These symbols make the club special not only to its followers, but also to other groups and individuals whose lives have intersected with it. Founded in 1892, the club had mixed fortunes in the first half of the twentieth century. The turning point came in 1959, when the charismatic Bill Shankly became manager. LFC dominated English and European football for the next thirty years, as the port city of Liverpool suffered economic decline. Since 1990, success has been sporadic and the club increasingly unstable. Yet LFC today is one of the world’s richest football clubs, with deep roots in popular culture, more than 200 supporters’ clubs worldwide, and a far-reaching reputation for fan activism. It is a unique transnational symbol of football’s social, cultural, and political importance.
Focusing on the modern LFC (from 1959 to the current era of American ownership), my current project presents a new kind of club history. With its global profile and rich past, LFC has received plenty of scholarly attention. Historians, though, have often been conspicuous by their absence. Even long after football’s removal from the academic deep freeze, there are surprisingly few ambitious, rigorously-researched histories of the world’s most prominent football clubs. Dreams and Songs to Sing will be the first global social history of LFC. It will examine how the club’s path to modernity is tied to local, national, and international developments in and beyond sport. It will explore how people around the world have supported Liverpool and how the values invested in the club are influenced by race, class, gender, and politics. Equally, it will examine other groups – such as partners of committed fans, supporters of rival teams, and residents of Anfield’s L4 district – with different ties to, and opinions about, the club. Structured around three major themes (geographies, identities, and popular culture), and based on an unprecedented range of archival resources and oral history interviews, this work will uncover a new history of one of the world’s leading sporting institutions - told from the perspectives of the ordinary people whose histories shaped, and were shaped by, their encounters with LFC.
areas of research for graduate supervision
history of sport
film and history
Contested Fields: A Global History of Modern Football (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020).
The People's Game: Football, State, and Society in East Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). The paperback edition of The People’s Game (2016) was named one of the Best Books on Sports for 2016 in The Guardian.
Youth Politics in East Germany: The Free German Youth Movement, 1946-1968 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Dawson, Rebeccah, Bastian Heinsohn, Oliver Knabe, and Alan McDougall (eds.), Football Nation: The Playing Fields of German Culture, History, and Society (New York & Oxford: Berghahn, forthcoming, October 2022).
articles and book chapters
"'This heart-rending and world-shattering news': gender, emotion, and transnationalism in the Bill Shankly retirement letters," Sport in History vol. 42, no. 1 (2022): 126-51.
"Between self-interest and solidarity: European football and the Covid-19 lockdown," in Jörg Krieger, April Henning, Lindsay Pieper, Paul Dimeo (eds.), Time Out: Global Perspectives on Sport and the Covid-19 Lockdown (Champaign, IL: Common Ground Research Networks, 2020), pp. 197-210.
"'Eulogy to theft': Berliner FC Dynamo, East German football, and the end of East German communism," in Robert Edelman and Christopher Young (eds.), The Whole World Was Watching: Sport in the Cold War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2020), pp. 113-25.
"'Tanked up yobs' and 'self-pity city': deconstructing the myths of Hillsborough disaster," STADION: International Journal of the History of Sport vol. 43, no. 1 (2019): 58-75.
"Eyes on the ball: screening football in East German cinema," Studies in Eastern European Cinema vol. 8, no. 1 (2017): 4-18.
"'Das Spiel ist aus!' Football and history in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy," German History vol. 34, no. 4 (2016): 608-29.
"Controlling the ball? A comparison of the Gleichschaltung of football in the Third Reich and in the SBZ and early GDR, c. 1945–1958," in Die Gleichschaltung des Fußballsports im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland, edited by Markwart Herzog (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2016), pp. 413-31.
"Whose game is it anyway? A people’s history of East German football," Radical History Review 125 (2016): 35-54.
“East Germany and the Europeanisation of football,” Sport in History vol. 35 no. 4 (2015): 550-66.
"Playing the game: football and everyday life in the Honecker era," in Becoming East Germans: Socialist Structures and Sensibilities after Hitler, edited by Mary Fulbrook and Andrew Port (Oxford and New York: Berghahn, 2013), pp. 257-76.
"Around the Wall: East German football encounters with the West," The International Journal of Sport and Society vol. 3, no. 4 (2013): 99-107.
"S3 to Ostkreuz," in CV2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing vol. 31, no. 3 (2009): 94-95.
"A duty to forget? The 'Hitler Youth Generation' and the transition from Nazism to Communism in post-war East Germany, c. 1945-49," German History vol. 26, no. 1 (2008): 24-46.
"Cautious dissent, reluctant conformity: young East Germans and the 1956 Revolution in Hungary," in Resistance, Rebellion and Revolution in Hungary and Central Europe: Commemorating 1956, edited by László Péter and Martyn Rady (London: UCL SSEES, 2008), pp. 239-46.
"Young Workers, the Free German Youth (FDJ) and the June 1953 Uprising," in Power and the People: A Social History of Central European Politics 1945-1956, edited by Eleonore Breuning, Jill Lewis and Gareth Pritchard (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), pp. 29-41.
Invited talks, conference papers & workshops
“'There has to come a time to forget': Liverpool FC, European football, and the Heysel disaster." International Centre for Sports History and Culture Research Webinar, De Montfort University, Leicester (January 2022).
"A hard and relentless task which goes on and on like a river": the art of repetition in David Peace's Red or Dead." Online workshop on Telling the Story of Sport: Narrating Sport in a Global Context, University of Bristol (March 2021).
"Fußball Internationale? Towards a global history of GDR football". 43rd annual conference of the German Studies Association, Portland, OR (October 2019). Part of GSA seminar "Football (soccer) in German-Speaking Europe: History, Politics and the Arts."
"Socialism on the road: East German football tours and international cultural exchange". Round table discussion titled "Futbol Turizm: Performance and International Diplomacy in the Socialist World" with Bob Edelman (UC San Diego), Steven Maddox (Canisius), and Richard Mills (UEA). Annual Convention of the Association of Slavic, Eastern European, & Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), Boston, MA (December 2018).
"Subversion at play: football, politics and history in Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy". 42nd Annual Conference of the German Studies Association, Pittsburgh, PA (September 2018)
“The people’s game? Football and society in communist East Germany." Part of a panel titled “Football for all? A round-table discussion on football and society in East Germany, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia," with Richard Mills (University of East Anglia) and Manfred Zeller (University of Bremen). Annual Congress of the International Society for the History of Physical Education and Sport, Münster, Germany (July 2018).
"Letters to Bill: a social history of Bill Shankly’s 1974 resignation as Manager of Liverpool FC." Annual Convention of the North American Society for Sport History (NASSH), Winnipeg (May 2018).
"‘Tanked up yobs’ and ‘self-pity city’: deconstructing the myths of the Hillsborough disaster." Political Football Myths: 12th Irsee Sports History Conference, Schwabenakademie Irsee, Germany (February 2018).
"Local matters: football fans and civic identities in divided Berlin". 39th annual conference of the German Studies Association, Washington D.C. (October 2015).
“Eulogy to theft: Berliner FC Dynamo (BFC) and the downfall of East German communism”. Spanning and Spinning the Globe: Conference on Cold War Sport, German Historical Institute, Moscow (May 2015).
"Was the ball red? Contesting football as the people's game in East Germany", Invited lectures at the University of Oxford & the University of Durham, November & December 2014.
"Drowning not waving: the afterlife of East German football." 37th annual conference of the German Studies Association, Denver, CO (October 2013).
"Playing the game: football and everyday life in the Honecker era", 34th annual conference of the German Studies Association, Oakland, CA (October 2010).
"A game of their own? Football fans in communist East Germany, 1949-1989," 38th annual convention of the North American Society for Sport History, Lake Buena Vista, FL (May 2010).
"East Germany and the Europeanisation of Football, c. 1956-1965". FREE (Football Research in an Enlarged Europe) conference on "The Origins and Birth of European Football", Besançon, France (September 2012).
"Around the Wall: East German football encounters with the West." The 3rd International Conference on Sport and Society, Cambridge, UK (July 2012).
Interview with CBC News: The World at Six, on Russian athletes and the war in Ukraine (March 2022).
Podcast on East Germany at the 1974 World Cup, Soccernostalgia (2022).
Interview with Conor Heffernan on the Bill Shankly retirement letters, Sport in History podcast (2021).
Interview with Keith Rathbone on Contested Fields, New Books in Sport (2021).
Podcast on "The Death of Lutz Eigendorf", GIANT (2021).
Podcast on Contested Fields, Outside Write: Football Travel, History and Culture (2020).
"Uncontested Fields? Global Football and the Coronavirus" - University of Toronto Press Blog (April 2020).
Podcast on The People's Game, Outside Write: Football Travel, History and Culture (2019).
Interview with Angie Seth for CTV News feature, "Was the fall of the Berlin Wall an accident?" (November 2019).
Interview for an article on football in East Germany 30 years after German reunification: "Queda do Muro de Berlim expôs fraqueza do leste alemão no futebol," Folha de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (November 2019).
Podcast on East German football, Radio GDR (2019).
Canadian Sport Film Festival, Toronto, June 2017: post-screening Q&A with host James Sharman of Sportsnet’s Soccer Central, following the North American premiere of the documentary film Hillsborough (Daniel Gordon, 2016).
Interview for an article in the Danish football magazine Tipsbladet on RB Leipzig, 26 August 2016, pp. 16-19.
Podcast on The People's Game, New Books in Eastern European Studies, 24 March 2016.
Sport in the Cold War podcast, Wilson Center Digital Archive (June 2015): The Stasi's Football Team (Episode 3).
Interview for Toronto Star article entitled “German hockey star recalls missing shot at Edmonton Oilers glory”, 9 November 2014.
"Whose Game Is It Anyway? The Global Culture of Football" - blog post for fifteeneightyfour: Academic Perspectives from Cambridge University Press, 1 July 2014.
Interview for At Guelph article entitled "Soccer Fans Have History of Kicking Against Authority", 20 June 2014.
Interview for the CFRU radio program From the Second Storey on The People’s Game and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, 16 June 2014.
Featured researcher on the College of Arts website, September 2013 ("Keep calm and play soccer").
Interview for an article on East German football in a special issue of Tipsbladet on ‘Tysk Fodbold’ (German football), 18 January 2013, pp. 13-17.
Television appearance to discuss youth culture in divided Germany in Episode 3 of the CBC’s Cold War series Love, Hate & Propaganda ("Cracks in the Wall", first aired on 1 December 2011).
YouTube video for germanstudies.ca, reflecting on the state of East German football twenty years after reunification (October 2010).
Social Sciences and Humanties Research Council of Canada, Standard Research Grant, 2009-2012