Where did football come from? How did it get to be so popular? And why can't we even agree on what the word 'football' means?
A Devilish Pastime – whose title comes from a 16th-century Puritan pamphlet that denounced the game as sinful – begins by looking at the football-like games of the distant past. It goes on to trace football's evolution through the Middle Ages and beyond, and how the sporting revolution of the 19th century led to the emergence of mass-audience sports that have become such a big part of modern life: soccer, rugby union, rugby league, American and Canadian football, Gaelic football and Australian Rules.
It examines the development of the rules, tactics, playing styles and cultures of these sports, while looking at how they have become popular in various parts of the world and different sections of society, and at the people who have helped to make all this happen. As well as being a sporting history, it touches on the social, cultural and political histories of the lands where these sports have developed.
Updated and enhanced in 2017.