The study of sporting death is a neglected area of the history of sport. This paper, though drawing on English material, therefore has implications for American and other studies. It provides a broadly cultural analysis of the funeral processions, burials and public responses to the deaths of a small sample of top sportsmen in Victorian England in the second half of the nineteenth century, including the pugilist Tom Sayers (1826-1865), the sculler James Renforth (1842-1871), and champion jockey Fred Archer (1857-1886), all of whom competed successfully internationally. Drawing inter alia on London, provincial and foreign press material, and the symbolic language of the “rite of passage” to the grave, it explores the complex contradictions and differences between accounts and representations and the ways these helped to shape contemporary and later social attitudes to specific sports, sporting heroism, and sporting culture in Britain and abroad.

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