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Professor Jean Williams

Job: Professor of Sports History and Culture and Faculty Head of Research Students for Art, Design and Humanities

Faculty: Art, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities

Research group(s): International Centre for Sports History and Culture

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 250 6304



Social Media:


Publications and outputs 

Click here for a full listing of Jean Williams' publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

Research interests/expertise

  • The social and cultural history of sport and gender
  • British Women Olympians
  • Sport and literature
  • International women’s football, particularly issues of equity and professionalism
  • Sportswear, fashion and footwear
  • Motor Sport

Having written extensively on the history of women’s football, Jean has three main projects for 2014-15, these include first a research monograph called Send Her Victorious: a History of British Women Olympians, for Manchester University Press, a collective biography of some of the key women who have represented TEAM GB between 1896-2014. Second is The Road to Rio a series of events to celebrate the cultural history of the World Cup with speakers at the National Football Museum and British Library (see events page to book). ‘Third, acting as guest editor for an inter and multi disciplinary collection of articles for Sport in History on the relationship between costume history and sport. 

Areas of teaching

Faculty Head of Research Students for Art Design and Humanities. I supervise PhD students and I am the module leader for Social and Cultural Themes of Sport, Sport Writing and History, on the MA Sport History and Culture by distance learning. I have also taught on the CIES FIFA-sponsored Masters in the Humanities, Business and Law of Sport for the entire duration of the course. Before specializing in sports history, I previously worked on PGCE Secondary English teacher training courses; as Subject Leader for Education Studies and was, for ten years, a teacher and examiner of English Language and Literature in further education.


  • PhD De Montfort University, Leicester. Thesis: The Revival of Women’s Football and English Culture 1960-2000

  • MA Modern Literature: Theory and Practice Leicester University

  • PGCE English Sheffield Hallam

  • BA English Loughborough University

Membership of professional associations and societies

British Society for Sports History

North American Society for Sports History

Women’s History Network

International Society of Olympic Historians

Professional licences and certificates

FA Coaching UEFA B Licence

FA Child Protection Tutor Trainer

Forthcoming events

  • Paper 'Amateur and professional debates in European women's football 1950-1980' 11 September 2014 - European Football from 1920 to 1980: An International Conference University of Lausanne convened byGrégory Quin andPhilippe Vonnard.

  • Convenor ‘Fashioning the Sporting Body: a one day seminar on sporting dress and costume history’ 31 October De Montfort University Leicester.

  • Keynote lecture ‘Migration, professionalization and the gendered global markets for women’s football’ Women’s Football and Soccer Politics Seminar  Duke University, North Carolina USA 10 April 2015.

  • ‘Migration, Professionalisation and the History of Women’s Sporting Work in Europe’ Women’s World Cup 2015 Symposium Bristol University 14 May 2015.

  • Conference presentation ‘Ludy Godbold and the US women’s team at the 1922 Women’s Olympic Games’ North American Society for Sports History Annual Conference Miami Florida 22-25 May 2015.

Conference attendance

1. Convened

The Road to Rio Free Public Lunchtime Lectures, the National Football Museum Manchester
The International Centre for Sports History and Culture, De Montfort University, Leicester in partnership with the National Football Museum Manchester and Arts Council England February to June 2014

The Road to Rio: The Cultural History and Globalisation of the World Cup 1930-2014 British Library London 23 May 2014 hosted by the British Library and the International Centre for Sport History and Culture De Montfort University

Kit: Fashioning the Sporting Body Sport History Research Seminar Friday De Montfort University 31 October 2014

2. Hosted conferences/seminars

‘Sport, History and Literature: Approaches, Methods, Critiques’ September 2008 Dr Jean Williams co- organised the event with Prof Jeff Hill.  After a series of one-day conferences on this theme in 2005 and 2007, the Centre organised a special two-day international conference on sport writing.  An international panel of guest speakers (USA, Iceland, Ireland and mainland Europe) were invited to give papers at the event.  The Centre was delighted to welcome Prof. Michael Oriard, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture, Oregon State University, as the key note speaker for the conference.

2008-present Sport History and Culture Research Seminar hosted 3 times annually at DMU.  The MA Sport History and Culture/ PhD Research Seminar takes place three times a year.  Jean has led this since 2008 as an invited seminar for staff/ established academics, PhD students (at DMU and other institutions) and MA students.  We focus on new research but also the transition to working at postgraduate, post doctoral and subsequent phases of an academic career.

2011-12 £6,000 DMU Research Investment Fund-supported network to look at sporting fashion.  The Natural Body: Movement, Dress and Physical Culture 1890-1945 is co-convened with Dr Christine Boydell and Professor Theresa Buckland with Jean Williams as Principal Investigator.  Three seminars examining the history of specialist bathing and dance costumes will conclude on 27 April 2012.

Centre staff and the Oxford DNB day conference on 30 March 2012.  Speakers included DNB Research Editor Mark Curthoys; ICSHC's Tony Collins and Dil Porter and Adrian Smith, Co-organiser of AHRC ‘Challenges to Biography’ Research Network, University of Southampton.

3. Network participant

Football Migration: Disabola member.  Diasbola is a group of academics looking at football migration to analyse international patterns of movement in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia. The network’s membership can be seen at /Football Migration Network /Members.  The group met at the University of Copenhagen in December 2010 where Jean presented a paper on the preliminary finding of the UEFA-funded project.

Sport and Law: With DMU colleagues Andy Gray of Business and Law and Tony Collins, Jean is working on an exhibition to be held at the Supreme Court in July 2012 to look at the historical connections between Olympic sport and the law.  Keynotes include Dame Mary Peters and Denis Oswald.

4. Conference papers given Sept 2008 to present

  • “The curious mystery of the ‘Olimpick Games’ Did Shakespeare know Dover… and does it matter?” based on research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the British Library and the Olympic museum in Lausanne Sport, History and Literature: Approaches, Methods, Critiques DMU September 2008.
  • “The curious mystery of the ‘Olimpick Games’ Did Shakespeare know Dover… and does it matter?” inaugural East Midlands Early Modern inter disciplinary colloquium Loughborough University September 2008.
  • ‘One of the most widely travelled cricketers of his day’ George Geary and Leicestershire’s sporting heroes DMU Sport History and Culture Research Seminar October 2008.
  • ‘A History of Women’s Football in Germany’ 4th Transnational meeting of Scholars of Gender and Sport in Ludwigsburg, Germany November 2008.
  • Invited and fully funded paper on ‘Women’s Football in Germany’ at German Historical Institute Washington USA November 2008.
  • ‘Kit: toward a history of sports clothing’ with Dil Porter British Society of Sports History Stirling University July 2009.
  • Invited panel Chair ‘Football and Globalization: a response’ Royal Holloway September 2009.
  • ‘Kit: toward a history of sports clothing’ with Dil Porter Centre for the History of Retail and Distribution University of Wolverhampton September 2009.
  • ‘Frisky and Bitchy: unlikely women Olympians’ Women’s History Network (Midlands) Staffordshire University in Stoke on Trent September 2009.
  • 'Frisky and Bitchy: the life and work of Rixi Markus, the first woman world bridge grandmaster’ Sport and Society network Keele University October 2009.
  • ‘Speed: Towards a collective biography of Brooklands’ women: the lives and careers of Kay Petre and the Hon. Mrs Victor Bruce’ Sixth Transnational meeting of Scholars of Gender and Sport University of Bath 26-27 November 2010.
  • ‘Women’s Football Europe and Professionalisation’ Women, Football and Migration Symposium University of Copenhagen 1 December 2010.
  • ‘Pat Smythe and the Golden Girls of the 1960s athletic team’ Sporting Lives Symposium Manchester Metropolitan University 2 December 2010.
  • Women’s Football, Europe and Professionalization 1971-2011 final presentations UEFA headquarters, Nyon, July 2011 to an industry group chaired by William Gaillard.
  • 'Speaking Softly: Roberta Cowell's Autobiography, Gender and Identity' at the Gender and Sport History Symposium International Football Institute, University of Central Lancashire and sponsored by The British Society for Sports History, June 2011.
  • 'Speed: Towards a collective biography of Brooklands’ women’ Sport and Leisure History Series, Institute for Historical Research, London November 2011.
  • ‘A History of World Cup Posters 1930-2014’ Football 150 Conference National Football Museum Manchester 2 September 2013.

  • ‘A History of World Cup Posters 1930-2014’ Sports Writing and Cultural Translation Symposium Bristol University 21 February 2014.
  • ‘A History of World Cup Posters 1930-2014’ Soccer as the Beautiful Game:
Football's Artistry, Identity and Politics International Conference Hofstra University, New York 10-12 April 2014.

  • ‘A History of World Cup Posters 1930-2014’ Festival of Football Ideas, Bristol Planetarium 5 June 2014.
  • ‘Personal Museums: My World Cup Memory and Memorabilia’.

     ‘Members of the public shared the stories behind their own World Cup objects which (through a process of 3D scanning and printing) are incorporated into an interactive cinematic installation.’ 

    Delivered with John O Shea (National Football Museum) with artist group Soup Collective 18 June 2014.


    ‘Given The Boot: The ambiguities of the Design History of Football's Footwear’Kit: Fashioning the Sporting Body Sport History Research Seminar Friday De Montfort University 31 October 2014. 

Other forms of public presentation

Working papers 'British Women Olympians 1900-1912' and 'Pat Smythe' plus feature article British Library

Working paper “Women’s Football, Europe and Professionalization 1971-2011: Global Gendered Labor Markets" on the launch of its website

Article 'The WSL: the newly-launched English professional women's football league' PE Review (Philip Allan Updates, January 2012).

Consultancy work

From September 2014 Co-Editor of The All Rounder online sports site with Bruce Berglund (editor in chief) and Michael Buma. THE ALLROUNDER is a new kind of sports site, for fans who know there’s more to sport.The Allrounder looks at how sport impacts communities, shapes culture, and taps bodies and emotions.

Consultant to FIFA (women’s football 1999 & 2003 Symposia) in Los Angeles; UEFA (2010-11); academic consultant for the National Football Museum and Hall of Fame (2008-present).


Women's football interviews and presentations include ‘Rough girls, delicate boys’ The Global Game with John Turnbull –, September 22, 2007; the BBC Nation on Film Series (2008 still available); radio interviews such as Women’s Hour and Radio 5 Live.and for newspaper reviews of exhibitions which include women's football memorabilia such as Barry Didcock The Sunday Herald 4 March 2012.

Women's World Cup 2011 media interviews included Impact Asia with Mishal Hussein for BBC World News TV; Radio5 Live; the BBC World Service (radio and TV) and Mainichi Shimbun, a leading Japanese broadsheet newspaper.

Other consultancy included advising the producers of Edwardian Farm on BBC 2 (2010), Lexis PR on the history of women's physical movement (2011) and writing episode notes of Sport and the British broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2012. Feature on Jennie Fletcher in the Leicester Mercury 24 March 2012.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Jennie Fletcher; Hilda Light; Lily Parr and Edith Thompson

New Books in Sport Podcast for Euro 2012 (women's football) and Olympic editions (new biographies) available at (Between 26 July and 27 August the New Books in Sport site had over 1,400 hits)

Current research students

First Supervisions: Amanda Callan-Spenn (a historical biography of Sarah Meyer, the first female Western Judokan black belt); David Swift (the literature of boxing from Pierce Egan to Arthur Conan Doyle); Madie Armstrong (a biography of Lizzie Le Blond); Tom Barcham (the post-war Mountaineering professional); James McPherson (a historical biography of Arthur Conan Doyle's writing on sport); Keith Myerscough (swimming and civic culture in Lancashire) and Jo Halpin (a history of women’s hockey).

Externally funded research grants information

UEFA awarded 17,000 Euros for a project Women’s Football, Europe and Professionalization 1971-2011 designed to look at the developing professional careers in football for women in the context of changing interpretations of Europe after 1945.

Previously, a £24,000 research project to look at international developments in women's football funded by FIFA 2003-5.

Internally funded research project information

2008-9 £350 Department Research Committee British women Olympians funding.

2009-10 £400 Department Research Committee Speed: Towards a Collective biography of Brooklands’ women’.

£6,000 DMU Research Investment Fund-supported network to look at sporting fashion. The Natural Body: Movement, Dress and Physical Culture 1890-1945 co-convened with Dr Christine Boydell and Professor Theresa Buckland.

2012 £675 Department Research Committee Fashion and Technology Institute New York funding.

DMU HEIF funding £9,600 for 2012/13 to develop monograph on European women's football 1912-2012, including all 53 UEFA member associations.

De Montfort University Research Leave Scheme Autumn 2013 £3013.

DMU HEIF5 funding £29,935 for 2013/14 The Road to Rio: A Cultural History of the World Cup.

Professional esteem indicators

John H. Daniels Fellowship at the National Sporting Library Middleburg Virginina USA for 2013.

Panel member of Aberdare Committee for BSSH annual prize for best monograph

Membership of Editorial Boards:

Japanese Society of Sports History (English history editor) 2011 to present.

Journal Refereeing information:

Co-editor Sport and Literature a special edition of Sport in History with Jeff Hill (Routledge June 2009).

Other Reviewing Activities:

Book Proposals for MUP, Peter Lang, Routledge and Palgrave Macmillan. Book Reviews and article reviews for Sport in History; Journal of Sport History; Soccer and Society; Sport and Society 2008 to present.

Case studies

1. Non Executive Director of Silverstone Heritage Trust for the construction of £20 million Silverstone Motor Sport World. The HLF proposal has passed part one of the process and the final bid will be submitted in April 2016. Prince Harry has agreed to become Royal Patron of Silverstone Heritage Trust.

2. A History of the World Cup in 24 Objects co-curated and written with Dr David Goldblatt, The National Football Museum, Manchester May-September      2014

£29,965 (2013/4) DMU Higher Education Investment Fund 5 Collaboratory Grant for The Road to Rio: a Cultural History of the World Cup with the National Football Museum, Manchester, The British Library and the Brazilian Centre for Sports History and Memory, Sao Paolo.

A public lecture series at the National Football Museum, Manchester (440,000 visitors in 2012/3) formed part of the Impact plan: Andre Megale (Brazilian Institute on the History and Memory of Sports, Sao Paolo)‘A history of Brazilian football’ 26 March 2014; Professor John Hughson (IFI UCLAN) ‘What's it all about?’: Alf Ramsey and the 1966 World Cup' and Dr Stacey Pope (Durham) ‘The Forgotten Fans: Women and the 1966 World Cup’ 23 April 2014; David Goldblatt ‘Futebol Nation: A Footballing History of Brazil’ 21 May 2014; Jean Williams and John O Shea (Arts Council England) with artist group Soup Collective ‘Personal Museums: My World Cup Memory and Memorabilia’ 18 June 2014. In June, members of the public shared the stories behind their own World Cup objects which (through a process of 3D scanning and printing) were incorporated into an interactive cinematic installation. The project is now archived at The National Football Museum. David Goldblatt and I also produced an accompanying exhibition booklet sold at the National Football Museum but also promoted by DMU’s Square Mile World Cup Festival team in their work with Leicestershire schools held at New College Leicester 1-8 July 2014, Road to Rio research featured on BBC One’s flagship documentary for the World Cup Linekar in Brazil: The Beautiful Game broadcast 10 June 2014 (approximately 6 million viewers), with DMU acknowledged in the titles and visiting academic Andre Megale interviewed for the programme.

3. With broadcaster Clare Balding; Grand National jockey Charlotte Brew and retired England Football International Kelly Smith for BBC One’s The One Show (average audience 5 million viewers) programme to air 10 April 2015 to mark the first time that the Women’s Boat Race was held over the same course and on the same day as the men’s race.

Jean Williams








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