Although for a century or more organized sports have occupied a central position in British cultural life, until comparatively recently they have been a neglected area of historical and sociological analysis. This is partly because mainstream ideas about sports are concerned with the physical body (something that appears as entirely 'natural' and unchangeable), and partly because sports are popularly believed to have a 'life of their own', essentially separate from 'important' aspects of the social world of work, politics and economics (something intrinsically innocent, playful and liberating).