The Wimbledon Championships, staged annually at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), is a British sporting event of great social significance. Its popularity stretches beyond the high standards of tennis on display to what it seems to represent culturally for many people. Wimbledon’s public image has been carefully constructed over the years, with consideration given to how the players look, behave, and play; the appearance of the courts and AELTC grounds; the refreshments; its corporate partners; and its relationship to television and media generally. This study suggests that many of these aspects, including Wimbledon’s fashions and the all-whites clothing rule, the grass courts, the strawberries and cream and Pimm’s, the royal box, “Henman Hill,“ and the eulogizing of Fred Perry, conform to Eric Hobsbawm’s concept of “invented traditions.” Through analysis of Wimbledon’s subtle branding and constructed public image, as gleaned from testimonies from AELTC executive-committee members and high-profile Wimbledon officials, this article discusses how these invented traditions serve various functions for the AELTC, namely, to establish social cohesion among an “imagined community” of Wimbledon fans, to legitimize Wimbledon’s high status globally, and to inculcate beliefs, value systems, and behavioral conventions in tandem with Wimbledon’s nostalgia for its amateur “golden age.”
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Robert J. Lake and Simon J. Eaves
Increasingly, sport has become an important lens through which to examine the historical influences of, and issues related to, transnational interactions and exchanges, yet the term “transnational” remains beset with disagreement regarding its precise meaning and definition. Commonly, transnational approaches to the historical study of sport provide opportunities to reach beyond “the nation,” whereby the nation–state is not positioned, necessarily, as the central category of analysis in discussions of cultural exchange between or across nations and borders. In such analyses, nonstate actors—essentially, those working outside of government influence—can move from the periphery to the center of focus. Challenging the dominant narrative of much historical research into globalization in sport that has tended to dwell on the negative, transnational approaches, as evidenced in this collection, offer new opportunities to consider positive, progressive, and co-operative aspects inherent to the connections and exchanges examined.
Robert J. Lake, Simon J. Eaves, and Bob Nicholson
Anglo-American relations in tennis are a fascinating subject, particularly in the period of the late-19th/early-20th century, during which on- and off-court developments reflected and indicated broader societal shifts, as the US gradually replaced Britain as the world’s leading industrialized nation. This paper aims to discuss how Anglo-American relations in lawn tennis shifted throughout this period, from when lawn tennis was “invented” in Britain to the onset of the Great War, and to contextualize these developments in the light of shifting broader cultural relations more generally between both nations, alongside developments within sport and tennis more specifically. The following aspects are examined: attitudes toward the relative standards of both American and British players from correspondents of both nations in terms of their overall rank and possibilities of success; and, attitudes from tennis officials toward the formal organization of competitions between players of both nations.