Pride of the East: Motorcycle speedway, transnational encounters, and provincial heartlands

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Abstract

For a century, motorcycle speedway has operated on a transnational basis. Its riders, competitions, and machinery regularly traverse national and continental borders. While the imposition of the Cold War’s Iron Curtain posed challenges, the sport persistently breached this obstacle as well. This essay focuses on one of speedway’s far-flung and diverse ‘provincial heartlands’ to show how this distinct sport generated frequent interactions at the so-called geographical margins. As one of speedway’s ‘entangled peripheries’, East Anglia owes a debt of gratitude to the sport’s Australasian pioneers. From the 1950s – decades before imported talent became commonplace in football – the region welcomed Scandinavian and Eastern Bloc riders, and hosted visiting clubs and national representations from across the continent. Later, East Anglia became a bridgehead for the successful assault of communist-built motorcycles on the Western market. These bold endeavours were not without controversy, as British riders voiced objections to foreign men and machines deemed a threat to their livelihoods. The Cold War’s end created exciting new opportunities for itinerant East Anglian riders abroad. Archival material from the Ministry of Labour, conversations with the sport’s foreign trailblazers and fans, Swedish and Czechoslovak sources, photographs, and official publications serve to demonstrate speedway’s enduring transnational character.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory - The Journal of the Historical Association
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 May 2024

Keywords

  • Motorsport
  • Cold War
  • Entangled Peripheries
  • Labour Migration
  • East Anglia
  • Scandinavia
  • Eastern Bloc
  • Trade

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