Book Review: The Beautiful History

The Beautiful History: Football Club Badges Tell the Story of Britain by Martyn Routledge and Elspeth Wills, Pitch Publishing, 2021

Possibly my favourite football book in recent years has been The Beautiful Badge: The Stories Behind the Football Club Badge (Pitch, 2018) by the same authors. It is a publication rich in design and the product of exhaustive research that cannot be faulted for attention to detail, criteria that go a long way to earn my endorsement as my other book reviews will attest. (My review of the book can be accessed from this link.)

With The Beautiful Badge, Martin and Elspeth identified a fascinating aspect of football history that had previously been overlooked and they could not be faulted for the manner in which they tackled the subject without the temptation to take short-cuts or rely upon unsubstantiated anecdotes. Accordingly they can reasonably be described as experts in their field. The Beautiful History is their sequel, another original and well-produced title.

For football supporters of my generation, the Bartholomew Football History Map of England and Wales published in 1971 (which continued to be sold for a number of years after) was iconic and did more to promote my knowledge of English and Welsh geography than anything else or all my Ladybird books put together. Superimposed on a map were sketches of the football kits worn by the Football League clubs of that time with pointers to where the clubs were based. At the side of the map were the corresponding club badges including those of prominent non-League clubs (including Bradford Park Avenue). I swear that if Scottish clubs had been included, my knowledge of Scottish geography might similarly have been advanced and it was a shortcoming that they were omitted.

Notable in 1971 was that most club badges were still derived from the local coat of arms. In turn, the Bartholomew football map provided an awareness of the iconography of the largest towns and cities in England and Wales and clues about the local heritage and traditions of those places. However, other than providing basic information about the date of formation of clubs, it was misleading to describe it as a ‘History Map’.

The Beautiful History takes a selection of around one hundred English, Welsh and Scottish football club badges and explains how their design has been derived from local and national historic themes. Refreshing is that the selection is not restricted to larger clubs with the likes of Alfreton, Hemel Hempstead and Whitby Town included.

The end product is a book that will provide considerable content for pub quizzes but The Beautiful History is targeted at all ages and is an ideal way to encourage any football loving child to take an interest in British history. That the history of the British Isles has been made accessible in this way is a wonderful achievement. I suspect that The Beautiful History will be talked about in the future much in the same way as the 50 year old Bartholomew map is remembered nowadays.

As a stocking filler present for Christmas I think it would be a fantastic gift for schoolchildren but it will have undoubted appeal to much older readers. Priced £16.99 it is great value for money and highly recommended.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Link here to my Other Book Reviews including those planned.

The image below is from the 1971 Bartholomews football map. The following link accesses features on my blog that cover the history of Bradford football crests and identities.