Beyond a Boundary

C.L.R. James

Duke University Press 1993 [1963]
A book review by Danny Yee © 1998
Beyond a Boundary blends personal memoir, social history, and sports commentary. James' subject is cricket and its role in his own life and in the history of the West Indies and England. He begins with the place of cricket in his family history, in his childhood and schooling in Trinidad, and in the social stratification of West Indian society. He then recounts his personal experiences of some of the great West Indian cricketers, among them George John, Wilton St Hill, and above all Learie Constantine, who was a personal friend. In the three essays on Constantine, James also discusses league cricket and his own move to England and involvement with West Indian politics.

An essay on George Headley provides an interlude before James moves on to W.G. Grace. He begins with a general argument for the importance of sport in social history, going back to Greek roots, to the Olympic games and the Athenian drama. He then highlights the contributions of Thomas Arnold and Tom Hughes (Tom Brown's Schooldays) in creating the setting for Grace's achievements, before going on to Grace himself and the lessons to be learnt from his career. This is followed by a somewhat over the top argument that cricket is a form of art. Two final chapters cover the unrest during an English tour of the West Indies in 1960, and more generally the complex interaction of race and politics in West Indian cricket, in such matters as the selection of teams and captains.

You don't have to be a cricket fan to appreciate Beyond a Boundary (it contains an introductory note which explains the basic rules of the game), but some interest in it would definitely help. On the other hand, cricket fans who aren't interested in the history of the game may find Beyond a Boundary bewildering — it is a far cry from the latest ghost-written celebrity moneyspinner. James' combination of incisive sociological analysis and fervent passion for cricket has produced a unique and enduring classic.

June 1998

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%T Beyond a Boundary
%A James, C.L.R.
%I Duke University Press
%D 1993 [1963]
%O paperback, index
%G ISBN 0822313839
%P xv,267pp