COOL CLASSES: “Sport and Society”

Born of a 2001 trip to Cuba with the Haverford baseball team, this history course examines the interrelationship of sport and society from a historical perspective and on a global scale, including a focus on key issues that have shaped the Olympic Games and the World Cup.

Class name: “Sport and Society”

Taught by: Associate Professor of History Alexander Kitroeff


Here’s what he had to say about his class:
Everyone agrees that sport is connected with society, but when and how did that happen first and what happened later? Is it society that influences sport or vice versa? Is sport always connected to society, and if so how much? The course seeks to answer those questions from the point of view of the modern history of Europe and North America from the late 19th century through the early 21st—in other words its amateur origins through its professionalization and politicization and on to its professionalization and transformation into spectacle, through the current era of commercialization and globalization.

It also shows students how historians have studied and understood the interrelationship of sport and society and what sources they use towards that purpose. The course uses the Modern Olympic Games and the World Cup of soccer as entry points into the subject, but in their final paper students are allowed to write about whatever sport topic they choose, as long as they connect it with the main themes of the course.

This course grew out of a Haverford College trip to Cuba almost 20 years ago that included spring training of the College’s baseball team. It was created and co-taught by myself and the late Greg Kannerstein (“Mr. Haverford”) who was then athletic director. Thanks to this course I went on to publish two books on the history of sport, one on Modern Greek identity and the Olympic Games and the other a history of the Athens-based soccer team Panathinaikos. Traditionally, the course has included visiting speakers, athletes and sportswriters—two years ago it hosted Esraa Awad of Egypt’s women’s national soccer team. This year we will benefit from the expertise of Alex Galarza, a postdoctoral fellow in data curation for Latin American and Caribbean studies here at Haverford. His doctoral dissertation examined soccer and politics in 20th century Buenos Aires.



See what other courses the Department of History is offering this semester.

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.

Photo: The Haverford College baseball team trip to Cuba in 2001 that inspired this class.