I’m Matt, a Lecturer in Sport Policy, Management, and International Development at the University of Edinburgh, Moray House School of Education. I am, however, first and foremost an historian. I received my BA (with departmental honours) in History from The College of New Jersey in 2004, and believed that I would be devoting my life to the academy as an historian of Latin America and the Caribbean.
However, having spent significant time in Scotland, both as a volunteer in outdoor education, as in studying abroad at Strathclyde University, I decided that I would do my PhD at the University of Glasgow. And, having been fascinated by football culture during my previous times in Scotland, my doctoral research examined the early years of association football culture in the west of Scotland, prior to the first Ibrox disaster of 1902. My thesis has been made into a (very expensive) book, and I have released several different articles on my doctoral research.
I graduated with my PhD in 2010. I continued to teach in Scottish and European history at Glasgow University, whilst working the summer of 2012 (an Olympic summer) at the Kingston University Summer School, where I taught a course on British sports culture to fellow American students. I also tended bar. My big break came into 2013, when I was employed to teach on the University of Edinburgh undergraduate course ‘The Social History of Sport in Scotland’, part of the BSc Sport and Recreation Management programme. In the summertime I was hired as a full-time maternity-cover lecturer, and I was hired for the permanent post in 2014.
My research since the completion of my thesis reflects the background of someone who spent years trying to get jobs in a wide array of programmes: from Celtic studies, to English language, to event management, to social policy. My initial postdoctoral research looked at the culture of sport on the Firth of Clyde during the long nineteenth century. This ended up being a jumping-off point, though, for two major explorations: that on the history of the island of Ailsa Craig, and one on the controversial political career of landowner and Arctic explorer/sportsman James Lamont.
However, my more recent work has also looked at the history of contemporary sporting events: in particular, the Commonwealth Games, an institution whose history as the Empire Games – and its allowance of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to compete as separate polities – allows great research possibilities within the framework of ‘four-nations history’. With Dr. Fiona Skillen at Glasgow Caledonian University, we are currently working on political and managerial aspects of the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games, both held in Edinburgh. Some of our research was covered by the media in the run-up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. This research has led me on to other concepts in relation to the history of Scottish sport, including Scottish sport’s historic relationships with the white regimes of South Africa and Zimbabwe.
However, I am also moving onto other topics: I am currently preparing an article on the history of Scottish surfing: specifically, one on the treatment of Thurso, on Scotland’s northern shores, in both the surf and mainstream media in relation to Caithness identity. This summer, I will also be writing up a manuscript on the Isle of Man Year of Sport 1985, in the context of tourism policy and ‘Manx-ness’, and I hope this project will further the creation of further critical research on popular culture on the North Atlantic Rim. I am also taking notes on disparate catalogued and uncatalogued archives in the history of sport (very broadly defined), and I buy cheap old books on historic sport and recreation, without knowing what I am going to do with them.
There is more to me than my research, though. I discuss teaching a great deal; as, aside from a course on the history of sport, I also teach two modules on research methods in sports studies, and an introductory class on sport management and the broader industry. I still teach these courses very much as an outsider: whilst I was a baseball fan growing up, I have never gotten beyond intramural soccer, so I come from a very different background to our students. And I don’t work out at the gym. One of the things that I want to stress during my week in the We The Humanities hot-seat is the wide breadth of experiences which exist within the broad church of humanities educators and practitioners.