The stadium century

Sport, spectatorship and mass society in modern France

Author: Robert W. Lewis

The stadium century traces the history of stadia and mass spectatorship in modern France from the vélodromes of the late nineteenth century to the construction of the Stade de France before the 1998 soccer World Cup, and argues that stadia played a privileged role in shaping mass society in twentieth-century France. Drawing off a wide range of archival and published sources, Robert W. Lewis links the histories of French urbanism, mass politics and sport through the history of the stadium in an innovative and original work that will appeal to historians, students of French history and the history of sport, and general readers alike. As The stadium century demonstrates, the stadium was at the centre of long-running debates about public health, national prestige and urban development in twentieth-century France. The stadium also functioned as a key space for mobilizing and transforming the urban crowd, in the twin contexts of mass politics and mass spectator sport. In the process, the stadium became a site for confronting tensions over political allegiance, class, gender, and place-based identity, and for forging particular kinds of cultural practices related to mass consumption and leisure. As stadia and the narratives surrounding them changed dramatically in the years after 1945, the transformed French stadium not only reflected and constituted part of the process of postwar modernisation, but also was increasingly implicated in global transformations to the spaces and practices of sport that connected France even more closely to the rest of the world.

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‘‘Anyone interested in the history of French sports can read Lewis's work as a stand-alone book because his clear and careful analysis provides ample background. One of the principal strengths of the book is his attention to the large context of sports during the interwar period.’’
Keith Rathbone
Journal of Sport History
July 2018

‘‘The geography of French sport has thus lagged somewhat behind its history, albeit with important exceptions, such as the work of Jean-Pierre Augustin. Robert Lewis’s contribution to redressing this imbalance is consequently to be welcomed, offering a concise guide to a built environment that is both complex and characterized by a fundamental paradox. […] his monograph confidently locates the development of the nation’s sporting infrastructure within a broader societal evolution, pulling together the narratives of modernization, consumerism and mass culture in a persuasive synthesis that deserves to be widely read.’’
Philip Dine
French History
September 2018

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