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Online History on West Ham

John Simkin

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When I was a history teacher a lot of my students wanted to do Key Stage 3/GCSE coursework on the history of their football club. This was understandable as football dominated their lives. Any teacher knows that it is vital to tap into the interests of the student. If you do this successfully, you can turn the apathetic student into someone who is highly motivated. They can also learn a great deal about social history by studying football history. It also makes a good local history study, which is now a compulsory aspect of the National Curriculum. So also is the need to do in-depth studies.

Most students use the internet for their research. However, despite the large number of websites on the current activities of football clubs, there is very little on the history of football clubs.

Therefore, I have decided to create a detailed online history of West Ham. This will include biographies and photographs of individual players. I will also create sections on the history of football, rule changes, etc. that will be helpful to students studying West Ham and other clubs.

I will also be producing guidelines on how this material can be used for coursework. For example, suggested topics, advice on how to carry out your own research in local libraries, etc. West Ham’s early history was reported in great detail in the local press and these newspapers are available at the Newspaper Library at Collindale. The Newham Local Studies Library at Stratford is another great source of information on West Ham.

This project will take several years to complete. The first draft on the first ten years can be found here.


It is an organic project and will be constantly have new material added.

So far I have produced 88 biographies. It will be over a 1,000 by the time I have finished.


I am also interested in being put into contact with history teachers in the area who are willing to contribute ideas for the project.

These are the books I am currently using for my research. I would welcome any additional titles you think I should buy.

John Powles, Iron in the Blood: Thames Ironworks FC (2005)

Kirk Blows and Tony Hogg, The Essential History of West Ham United (2000)

Tony Hogg, 1895-2005: Who’s Who of West Ham United (2005)

John Northcutt, The Definitive West Ham United (2003)

John Northcutt & Roy Shoesmith, West Ham United: An Illustrated History (1994)

The West Ham Collection (2003)

Brian Belton, Founded on Iron (2003)

Brian Belton, Days of Iron (1999)

Dean Hayes, The Upton Parks Encyclopedia (1998)

John Moynihan, The West Ham Story (1984)

Dave Russell, Football and the English (1997)

James Walvin, The People’s Game (1994)

David Russell & Wray Vamplew, Encyclopedia of British Football (2002)

Philip Gibbons, Association Football in Victorian England (2002)

John Harding, For the Good of the Game: Official History of the Professional Footballers Association (1998)

Phil Soar & Martin Tyler, Encycopedia of British Football (1983)

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I am hoping that this material will encourage teachers to study football as part of a local studies project. It is about time the history of football was studied in the classroom. As Arthur Hopcraft once said:

"Football has not been a sideshow of this century. What happens on the football field matters, not in the way that food matters, but as poetry does to some people and alcohol does to others; it engages the personality."

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