About the Course

Former Liverpool F.C. manager Bill Shankly once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Shankly’s remark is perhaps one of the most famous quotes in the history of the sport, plastered on countless posters and signs. But what is it about soccer—football—calciofutebolfútbol, etc … that excites so many, and stirs irrational passions around the globe? 

The “beautiful game” is indeed the world’s most popular sport. The men’s FIFA World Cup is the largest televised/streamed sporting event — viewed by over 2 billion people every four years. This year, the tournament will be held for the first time in the Middle East. The host nation, Qatar, is not as well known for international soccer as previous host nations; yet, the region’s passion for كرة القدم (kurat alqadam) is just as strong. Women’s soccer has seen enormous growth in Europe and Latin America over the last decade, with an April 2022 match between FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid drawing the largest crowd since the 1999 women’s FIFA World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. However, a much longer history of women’s soccer exists, as evidenced by the still-record crowd at the (unofficial) 1971 Women’s World Cup in Mexico City. In our living rooms, EA’s FIFA series (ending with FIFA 23) remains a top-selling video game and a gateway to the sport for an entire generation. Here, in the United States, more children play soccer than any other sport and Major League Soccer is now over twenty-five years old.

In this Senior Seminar, we will analyze soccer as a field of research. Students will research primary and secondary source materials, discuss sports history scholarship, compile annotated bibliographies of academic literature on the subject, and, ultimately, produce a 20-25 page (not including bibliography nor appendices) research paper on a related topic of your choice. As the capstone course in the history major, HIS 4100 demands the very best of you. 

Now, go find a topic around the World Cup that excites you and will guide your research project. Ground yourself in the necessary background information——not just by reading and annotating our course readings, and engaging in class discussions, but also by sharing research leads with classmates. Ultimately, HIS 4100 “FIFA World Cup: Soccer and Global History” is a shared journey and a major milestone in your academic career … so enjoy the process!

[Oh, and we’ll watch some games (i.e. primary source analysis) from Qatar too!]

Luckily, on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long while, some insolent rascal who sets aside the script and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee and the crowd in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom.

Eduardo Galeano, Soccer in Sun and Shadow