Volume One: Before Codification

Pre-Columbian Americans, Aboriginal Australians, the Ancient Chinese, the Romans, the Vikings, the Celts and many other cultures played ball games long before modern  laws were written for different kinds of football in the 19th century.

In this intriguing new book, Mike Roberts explores them all in detail, and draws on the very latest research while re-examining the original sources to dispel a number of myths before tracing the early  development of football and similar games in Western Europe, and presenting plenty of surprises along the way!

Sport and history combine to tell a fascinating story as we discover the truth about the medieval folk games that went on to become the modern codes of soccer, rugby union, rugby league, and Gaelic, Australian, American and Canadian football.

Explore this website for a taster of what each of the chapters will tell you:

1. A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME: What is football?

2. SETTING THE BALL ROLLING: Football in prehistory

3. EASTERN PROMISE: Ball games of the ancient Far East

4. THE HIP PARADE: Ball games in Pre-Colombian Central and Caribbean America

5. LITTLE BROTHERS OF WAR: Ball games in Pre-Colombian North America

6. WAY OFF THE MARK?: Ball games of pre-European Oceania

7. STICKS AROUND: The ancient ball games of Southern Asia and the Middle East

8. FOOTBALL CLASSICS: Ball games in ancient Greece and Rome

9: THE ITALIAN JOB: The medieval ball games of Italy

10. FRANCE FOOTBALL: The medieval ball games of France

11. EUROSPORT: Other early forms of football in Europe

12. NORSE CODE: The ball games of the Vikings

13. CELTIC ART: Stickball games of the ancient Celts

14. BANDY ON THE RUN: More on the origins of the hockey codes

15. MIDDLE AGE RELICS: Medieval football in Great Britain

16. RUSTICAL DIVERSIONS: British football in the 17th and 18th centuries

17. PLAY FOR TODAY: British Shrovetide football

18. HIGH SCHOOL BALLS: Early football in British public schools

19. ALL ELLIS BREAKING LOOSE: Rugby School and the origins of rugby

20. GROWN UP BOYS: Football at 19th century universities

21. A QUESTION OF CLASS: 19th century football in the non-academic world

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